Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100323

Financial Crisis
»EU Heavyweights Push Merkel to Aid Greece
»Greece: Central Bank, Deficit at 12.9% of 2009 GDP
»Greece: Papandreou, Ready to Ask Question on EU Support
»Greece: Disagreement on EU Aid, Euro Slides on Dollar
»Greece: Paris-Madrid, Eurozone to Meet Before Summit
»Obama Sends “Stimulus” Funds to Phantom Congressional Districts
»Spanish ‘Economic Miracle’ Loses Its Splendour
»UK: Public Sector Now 53% of Economy as Record 6.09 Million Britons Work for the State
»20 Ways Obamacare Will Take Away Our Freedoms
»Al Sharpton: ‘The American Public Overwhelmingly Voted for Socialism When They Elected President Obama’
»Barack Hussein Obama and Indonesia: There’s No Place Like Home
»Diana West: Churchill, Obama and Bush
»Gino Disimone: Independent Candidate for Governor of Nevada
»High School Students’ Video Inviting Obama to Martin County Draws Parents’ Ire
»Judge Orders Release of Gitmo Detainee With Ties to 9/11 Attacks
»Lawfare, Voluntary Surrender, And Right-Wing “Extremists”
»Lesley Stahl Says House Victory Makes Obama Look Like…Reagan?
»Obama Won’t Allow Any Photos of Him With PM Netanyahu
»Obama’s Health Care Reforms Show That America Has Become an ‘Elective Dictatorship’
»Rotarix Rotavirus Vaccine Contaminated, Officials Say
»Sheriff Baca Participates in Community Forum With Muslim Americans
»Supreme Court Battle Quietly Brews Over Possible Future Nominations
»U-2 Spy Plane Evades the Day of Retirement
»Internet Usage Overtakes Television Watching
»‘It’s Always the Bush League Schools, ‘ Coulter Contends
Europe and the EU
»Church Seeks Closure on Abuse
»Church in Italy ‘Has Foiled Abuse’
»Greece: Responsibility Claimed for 3 Athens Attacks
»Italy: Muslim Group Elects First Female No.2
»Italy: Islamic Prayers on the Streets and the Rule of Law
»Italy: Disaffected Voters on the Rise
»Pope’s Letter Disappoints Dutch Abuse Victims
»Stakelbeck in Austria: New Mosque Sparks Outrage
»Sweden: ‘Workplace Pregnancy is Contagious’: Study
»Swiss Threatened With Schengen Suspension Over Libya
»Switzerland: Priest Investigated for Suspected Abuse
»Switzerland: Questions Raised Over Labelling of Halal Meat
»UK: Boy, 13, Becomes One of Youngest to be Put on Sex Offenders’ Register After He is Caught Raping Three-Year-Old
»UK: Britain Expels Israel’s Top Spy in London as Miliband Tells MPs: Mossad Did Forge Passports Before Dubai Assassination
»UK: Council Chops Down 6,000 Trees at Beauty Spot to Stop ‘Doggers’
»UK: Children’s Charity Boss Admits String of Sadistic Sex Attacks on Prostitutes in ‘Torture Chamber Bedroom’
»UK: Labour Suspends Three Ex-Ministers Over Lobbying Claims
»UK: MP Quizzed by Police After Saying ‘Wearing Burkha Was Like Having Paper Bag Over Your Head’
»Vatican: Berlusconi Calls Pope Apology ‘Effective’
»Montenegro: Bar-Boljare Motorway Contract Cancelled
»Serbia: FAP to Assemble First Chinese Truck by Year’s End
»Serbia Exhibits Its Cultural Heritage in France
»Serbia: Jeremic; Three No’s on Kosovo, Bosnia and NATO
Mediterranean Union
»EU: Conference in Tours About Medina of Tunis
»EU-Morocco: Brussels’ Funds Aim at Common Market
»Med Cooperation With Morocco for Textiles and Tanning
North Africa
»Algeria: 19 New Dams to be Built by 2014
»Egypt: Islamic Jihad Criticises New Imam Al Azhar
Israel and the Palestinians
»Abbas: For Talks Israel Must Free 2,000 Convicted Terrorists
»Netanyahu Threatens to Delay Peace Talks by 1 Year
»Obama’s Victimization of Jewish Refugees From Muslim Countries
»Obama the Muslim Meets Netanyahu the Jew
»‘Peace Partner’ Plans ‘Resistance’ In Israel’s Capital
Middle East
»A Shocking Example: How NY Times Coverage Buries Middle East Reality; Find the Four Gigantic Errors
»Iraq: Kirkuk: Ex PM Allawi Leading Over Kurdish Parties
»Obama Recalls Bunker-Buster Bomb Kits to Bar Israeli Strike on Iran
»Saudi Hilal Challenges Fundamentalists Through Poetry
»Scholars to Rethink Jihad in Turkey’s Mardin
»Turkey: Turkey’s Kurds Celebrate Norouz Under the Watchful Eye of Police
»Turkey: Reform: Controversy Between AKP-Magistrates
»Turkey: Constitutional Reform; Erdogan Warns Judges
»Turkey: Nearly Two Mln Tourists in First 2 Months
»Turkey Unveils 5-Year Strategic Plan
»Yemen: Women Mobilise for Law on ‘Baby Brides’
South Asia
»China: Worst Drought in a Century Wipes Out Harvests in Southwestern China
»Pakistan: Militants Kill ‘US Spies’ In Tribal Region
Far East
»China’s Resource Stranglehold
»Philippines: Gov’t Revives $13 Mln Italian Aircraft Deal
Australia — Pacific
»Qantas Pilot Allowed to Carry on Flying… Despite Having Urges to Crash Planes
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Italy-Mauritania: Giannini, Federpesca Must Up Invesments
»Mauritania: Figures on the Composition of the Economy
»Mauritania: Economic Sectors and Opportunities
»Feds: Deport Homeschoolers Who Could Face Persecution
»Greece: 42 Illegals Saved After Shipwreck
»Greece: More Than 80 Albanians Stopped in 24 Hrs
»Italy: Unione Forense: Prevent Slave Trade
»Netherlands: Immigrant School Children Fear Wilders Could Deport Them
Culture Wars
»The Bishops, Not Stupak, Are the Problem
»David Littman Addresses the UN Human Rights Council

Financial Crisis

EU Heavyweights Push Merkel to Aid Greece

European heavyweights pressured German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday to back down over Greece, which accused Berlin of profiteering amid a euro currency slump.

The European Commission, the EU’s current Spanish chair, France and Italy each urged Merkel to nail down aid for Greece at a summit this week and warned that her resistance may feed market attacks on the euro.

Greek Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos went further — accusing Germany of betting on rising Greek bond yields and cheaper exports for its industry.

“In speculating against the bonds of your partner and friend, and in allowing monetary and credit institutions to take part in this miserable game, people in Germany are making money,” Pangalos said.

“While the countries of southern Europe suffer from the fall of the euro, German exports gain from its weakness,” he added.

Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso led the Brussels assault as a new poll showed the stakes rising in the Greek debt crisis with 61 percent of Germans opposed to a bailout and 40 percent even wanting Berlin to quit the euro.

“We need a decision at this summit so that we know how we are going to manage the Greek crisis,” Barroso told German daily Handelsblatt.

Warning of “deep uncertainty,” he stressed: “We can’t keep going this way, we risk endangering the stability of the eurozone and feeding (market) speculation.”

The euro fell to a three-week low of $1.3496 on Monday, while the interest rate demanded by investors to hold Greek debt rose sharply to more than 6.5 percent.

Merkel has said that “raising false expectations” of any deal at the summit — even without pressing the button on hard cash loans — would itself cause “turbulence” on markets.

“The point is that on Thursday and Friday — and it is important that markets know what can be expected and what should not be expected — it is not about aid to Greece,” Merkel told reporters after a meeting with European Parliament head Jerzy Buzek on Monday.

“Greece has not asked us for money. That means that there is no question of an urgent decision in the European Council about aid for Greece,” she said.

Widespread unease among German taxpayers could be seen in the Financial Times poll showing a hardening of opposition ahead of a key regional election on May 9.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has warned that his government might be forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund.

Buried under debts of €300 billion, he has already ordered billions of euros of savings in seeking to slash a runaway public deficit that is close to 13 percent of national output — more than four times the limit allowed by the eurozone. But loans at lower rates and totalling €22 billion are still being sought from eurozone partners, with IMF top-ups, a European source said.

Spain’s foreign minister said Thursday and Friday’s summit was a defining moment.

France said “new ideas” were required to close a yawning gap between the willingness of some eurozone partners to cough up and the need as expressed by Italy to ensure full solidarity.

“We have to support Greece,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner underlined.

Italian counterpart Franco Frattini said there was a “moral duty to intervene as soon as possible.”

Athens has officially only asked for help to fend off financial speculators, as it seeks to refinance more than €50 billion ($68 billion) of debt this year, including more than 20 billion by the end of May.

Greece is currently paying roughly twice the interest that Germany does to borrow money.

Barroso’s spokewoman stressed that her boss was doing “everything possible” to secure a deal this week, and that he remained “hopeful.” Berlin also faces a possible constitutional court challenge should its federal institutions engage in any bailout.

Meanwhile, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported a domestic “power struggle,” pitting Merkel against Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, was “weakening Merkel’s position in Brussels.”

Merkel is often lampooned in Germany for indecision, but Der Spiegel said she was acting with a “resolve reminiscent of (Margaret) Thatcher,” the former British prime minister who secured a multi-billion-pound rebate for London in lieu of bumper EU aid to French farmers.

“The role of the Iron Lady won’t make her more popular in Brussels, but back home it will,” it added.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Greece: Central Bank, Deficit at 12.9% of 2009 GDP

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 22 — Greece’s balance deficit for 2009 reached 12.9% of GDP. The news was released by Greece’s Central Bank, which also said that the country’s GDP will shrink by 2% in 2010. According to the Central Bank, which published its estimates in a report, the decrease in Greek GDP will be more than double the 0.8% estimated by the government, while the “timing and efficiency of the plan” launched by the government to bring balance deficit back under control will “weigh down” the slowing economic growth. The picture of the crisis is also established by the Central Office of Statistics which has found evidence in final figures from 2009 that Greek economic growth has shrunk by 2.5%. Some signs of recovery are to be found, however, in the figures relating to the first two months of 2010. According to Greece’s Finance Minister, Greece’s balance deficit fell 77.3% over January and February compared to the same period last year. In the two-month period, net income was up 13.2% to 8.745 billion euros, while spending was down 9.6% to 8.989 billion. The balance deficit was stabilised at 904 million euros against 3.986 billion. The Finance Minister sees the results as very positive, considering that the stability and growth programme presented by Greece to the European Commission, which placed the country under strict supervision, predicted a rise in income of 11.7% and a fall in spending of 3.5% for the first two months of the year. Yet a crisis of confidence continues to hit Greece and has not spared the shipping industry on which the country prides itself. Loans to Greek shipping companies, according to the insider Petrofin company, fell to 67 billion dollars in 2009 from 73.2 billion the previous year, while international banks that do not operate directly in Greece have reduced their exposure there by 18%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Papandreou, Ready to Ask Question on EU Support

(ANSAmed) ATHENS, MARCH 23 — If someone insists that they do not want to create a European support mechanism, then it will be Greece, together with Spain, the raise the question, said Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou regarding the European summit to be held on Thursday and Friday. Papandreou also called the new fiscal law that was discussed today in its definitive version by the Council of Ministers an “enormous reform and a revolutionary change”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Disagreement on EU Aid, Euro Slides on Dollar

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 23 — The Euro is drawing closer to its lowest rate against the dollar in three weeks, in the wake of indiscretions reporting that EU leaders, partly due to opposition by Germany, will fail to reach an agreement on Greece at Thursday’s summit meeting. The single currency this fell this morning to 1.3495 dollars on the European currency markets. Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini today spoke out on the matter, saying that “there should be no country more interested in the stability and credibility of the Euro zone than Germany”. Speaking in Rome, Frattini said that he hoped that “an agreement might be reached” on Greece, adding that he had spoken about the matter with the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. “If there is a mechanism that needs strengthening, it should be strengthened throughout Europe and not with bilateral agreements,” Frattini said. In an interview with the Financial Times, Barroso said he was convinced that the German chancellor Angela Merkel would decide that measures are now necessary. “On February 11, EU leaders decided to take coordinated action to ensure the stability of the Euro zone, if necessary,” Barroso said. “Well, the Commission now believes action to be necessary.” The aid will come in the form of conditional bilateral loans, he continued, a procedure that will not be activated immediately, but only when Greece requests it, if markets have not calmed down in the meantime. This formula would circumvent the no bail-out clause in the EU treaty. The President of the Commission also explained that he could not understand the aversion of member states towards the intervention of the IMF, which entered the political arena on behalf of Latvia, Hungary and Romania. The Financial Times also reports that Germany has imposed three conditions fundamental to the launch of an aid package for Greece: the involvement of the IMF, commitment from European partners to adopt stricter rules to control deficit and public debt, and finally, if necessary, changes to community treaties. According to the press agency DPA, the German chancellor also fears that any promise of financial aid to Greece might be blocked by the Constitutional Court. Experts say that neither the EU nor individual member states can guarantee the debt of a fellow member state or take responsibility for debt except in the case of natural disaster or events out of the control of the country in question. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Paris-Madrid, Eurozone to Meet Before Summit

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 23 — French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the current EU president, today in Paris for asked a meeting of the Eurozone countries to be organised “just before” the European summit on March 25 and 26, to discuss “economic governance in the Eurozone” and to “help Greece move forward”. The announcement was made in a joint statement by the two leaders at Elysee Palace in Paris. European heads of state and government will meet on Thursday and Friday in Brussels to try to draft a plan to assist Greece financially. According to German newspaper Zeitung, EU negotiations could have already reached a turning point: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy are reportedly considering an emergency solution that involves an injection of capital from the IMF, which would be supplemented through voluntary aid from EU countries. If the Merkel-Sarkozy plan is successful, continued the daily, it will be presented by EU president Herman Van Rompuy at the beginning of the heads of state and government summit. The daily underlined that a formal decision will not be made at the summit in Brussels because only Greece can ask for aid from the IMF. Furthermore, Athens will be able to ask for aid only if it is no longer able to resort to the markets. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Sends “Stimulus” Funds to Phantom Congressional Districts

To promote bragging rights for how much good the stimulus money was doing for America, the Obama Administration set up a website called “” Recorded on the site were details by zip code and congressional district as to how much money was sent there and how many new jobs were created as a result. It was a great piece of public relations where news reporters and politicians could find and quote the latest “good news for the economy.”

However, there was one small problem. The Administration didn’t count on a group called New Mexico Watchdog, a project of the Rio Grande Foundation. While researching the site, the Foundation’s investigative research journalist Jim Scarantino noticed something strange. It seems the site was reporting money going to several New Mexico congressional districts that do not exist.

The website reported that $26.5 million went to ten New Mexico Congressional districts. The site credited that money with creating a whopping 61.5 jobs. That, in itself, should be a crime — spending more than $430,000 per job crated. However, that wasn’t the big story. The fact is, those ten Congressional districts do not exist. New Mexico only has three — not thirteen.

As New Mexico Watchdog broke the story, investigators from other states took up the hunt, finding a total of 440 phantom congressional districts receiving nearly $6.4 billion to “create or save” just under 30,000 jobs — almost $225,000 per job. The “99th” District of North Dakota, a state which has only one congressional district, received more than $2 million.

Then it got worse. Not only did the site almost double the size of Congress with its phantom districts, further examination showed money also going to zip codes that don’t exist. The site reported that $373,874 went to New Mexico zip code 97052 — but no jobs were created. $36,218 was credited for creating five jobs in zip code 87258. $100,000 went into zip code 86705 — but no jobs were created. None of these zip codes exist.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spanish ‘Economic Miracle’ Loses Its Splendour

After joining the European Union, Spain was quick to join the ranks of richer nations. Now the economic crisis has halted its advancement.

By Merijn de Waal in Madrid

The first half of 2010 should have been a time of glory for Spain. For these six months, a crucial time in European history, Spain holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. In the midst of economic crisis, the EU has to devise its own answer to the economic emergency. The Treaty of Lisbon, which reforms the European government, needs to be implemented. A successful stint as EU chair would be a boost to Spanish morale, or so the government of prime minister José Zapatero hoped.

Things did not go as planned. Greece was cast into crisis as its budget deficit soared. Spain, the European country that — together with Ireland — had suffered most from the credit crisis, became a target of international financial markets.

The country is continually compared with Greece now that its comfortable budget surplus has turned into an 11.4 percent deficit in only two years.

Not in the same league

The crisis has left Spain on the defensive. According to Cristina Manzano, editor in chief of the Spanish edition of Foreign Policy, in recent years, the country had the illusion it had finally caught up with the rest of Europe.

“We thought we were playing in the same league,” Manzano said. “Even though we might not have yet reached European averages for certain economic variables, we compensated for those in other departments. But now the inferiority complex that weighed so heavily on us for so long seems to have returned.”

The Spanish feeling of inferiority has a long history. After its global colonial empire collapsed in the early 19th century, Spain became an isolated and backward nation and remained so for centuries. After the Franco dictatorship, which ended with the general’s death in 1975, the country was quick to leave this dark era behind it — partially thanks to help from Europe. Since it joined the EEC (the EU’s predecessor) in 1986, Spain has received 200 billion euros in support from Brussels. The funding has served as a belated Marshall Plan. Spain was quick to embrace EU membership as an extra safeguard of its young democracy.

Spain became a model member state. It met all the requirements for joining the euro without fudging its books. During the last economic crisis, in 2002 and 2003, Madrid stuck with the rules laid down in the Stability and Growth Pact, keeping its budget deficit below three percent of its GDP, while even Berlin and Paris did not.

The economy has prospered in recent years, growing faster than the European average. Year by year, Spain’s per capita income came closer and closer to the European standard. In 2006 the country surpassed Italy in this respect. It seemed only a matter of time before it would catch up with France.

A bubble bursts

But now the crisis has cast the country back. The real estate bubble that served for a decade as the economy’s main driving force, together with tourism, has burst. Suddenly the rapid growth of the past seems to have been unsustainable. Unemployment rates, now near 20 percent, are the highest of the entire eurozone by a wide margin. “The country is awakening to a bitter hangover after years of partying,” said economist Ángel la Borda.

Many Spaniards complain their country does not have an answer to the crisis. But if foreigners dare voice the same type of criticism, Spaniards are quick to react. Especially when derogatory terms like ‘PIGS’ (an acronym for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) or ‘Club Med’ are used. Or when the old ‘mañana, mañana’ cliché is invoked to explain the current crisis.

Deprecatory references are particularly prevalent in the Anglo-Saxon business press. “Foreign magazines tend to paint a rather stereotypical picture of us,” said José Ignacio Torreblanca, managing director of the Madrilenian branch of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

“Until 18 months ago they called us Europe’s economic miracle. They sung praises of our dynamic and open economy. Spanish companies were the ‘Trojans of the South’. We had spent European funds so wisely. Why has this all changed now?” Torreblanca asked.

Peripheral economies do worse

Torreblanca said the outside world has to understand that the crisis is hitting Spain in particular because Europe’s peripheral economies tend to develop in a more rampant fashion. “When the EU is doing well, we do better. When the EU is doing badly, we do worse. This has nothing to do with our national character. You see the same in Estonia, and no one will contend we have a lot in common with them.”

Whether the criticism is deserved or not, the Spanish government has to pay heed to it. Financial market anxiety over Spain’s economy and the government budget has definitely not subsided in recent months. This has caused the interest paid on Spanish treasury bonds to rise in comparison to the interest paid on the bonds deemed most reliable: the German ones.

“The game the government now has to play,” Torreblanca said, “consists of introducing reforms to keep financial markets happy on the one hand. On the other hand it should not reduce the deficit to such an extent that they end up paying an enormous political price.”

So far, the government has not been very successful in pulling off this balancing act. Earlier this year, it announced hasty measures to get the budget deficit under three percent by 2013, as Brussels demanded. But since then it has only half-heartedly attempted to find support for the unpopular measures, including 50 billion euros in cutbacks, raising the eligibility age for state pensions and reforming the labour market. The outside word has therefore remained wary.

The government’s leeway is limited. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was widespread political support for far-reaching measures in Spain. At the time, those were necessary for joining the EU and later the euro. In addition, the measures were rewarded with large sums of European monetary assistance. Since the EU expanded eastward in 2004 and 2007, a lot of European support has also been diverted in that direction.

A polarised political landscape

The Spanish political climate has also become extremely polarised since the beginning of this century. The centre-right opposition is not exactly keen to help the centre-left government tackle the current crisis, while unions are resisting reforms from the left. “The government is not truly willing to pay the political price for this crisis back home,” Cristina Manzano of Foreign Policy said.

According to Torreblanca of the ECFR, the crisis could mark the beginning of a new relationship with Europe. Pro-European sentiment in Spain “has always been intuitive and ill informed,” he explained. In 2005 for instance, a large majority voted in favour of the proposed (but never realised) European constitution even though few people knew it well. Torreblanca believes the Spanish lack of interest was calculated. “People do not collect information on a subject that does not concern them. If your country gets six billion euros from Brussels every year, that is all you need to know.”

Now that the European flow of money is drying up and Brussels is pushing for far-reaching reforms, the Spanish attitude towards the EU looks to become less pliant. “But Spain is still far away from protests like the ones we saw in the streets of Athens, where European flags were burnt,” Torreblanca said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK: Public Sector Now 53% of Economy as Record 6.09 Million Britons Work for the State

The public sector has ballooned under Labour to make up more than half of the economy.

State spending now accounts for 53.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to 40 per cent when Labour came to power in 1997.

Britain’s public sector is now bigger than the European Union average of 50.4 per cent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures.

The Daily Mail revealed last week how the latest unemployment figures showed that private sector employees have been facing the sack, while a record 6.09million Britons now work in the public sector.

Around 1,440 private sector workers lost their jobs each day last year — but the number of state employees rose by 126 a day, according to the Office for National Statistics.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


20 Ways Obamacare Will Take Away Our Freedoms

With House Democrats poised to pass the Senate health care bill with some reconciliation changes later today, it is worthwhile to take a comprehensive look at the freedoms we will lose.

Of course, the overhaul is supposed to provide us with security. But it will result in skyrocketing insurance costs and physicians leaving the field in droves, making it harder to afford and find medical care. We may be about to live Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

The sections described below are taken from HR 3590 as agreed to by the Senate and from the reconciliation bill as displayed by the Rules Committee.

1. You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the “privilege.” (Section 1501)

2. You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701)…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Al Sharpton: ‘The American Public Overwhelmingly Voted for Socialism When They Elected President Obama’

Some of the American people probably thought they were voting for hope and change when they voted for President Barack Obama on Nov. 4, 2008. But according to Rev. Al Sharpton, they were voting for socialism.

Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network and talk radio host told Fox News on March 21, during their special coverage of the House of Representatives’ passage of health care reform legislation, this victory for President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would begin “transforming” the country.

“I think that the president and Nancy Pelosi get credit,” Sharpton said. “I think this began the transforming of the country the way the president had promised. This is what he ran on.”

And if that transformation is socialism, then so be it, he explained. That is what the American public “overwhelmingly” voted for.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barack Hussein Obama and Indonesia: There’s No Place Like Home

Now that President Obama has done enough back-room deals to get the Democrats’ health care legislation through the House of Representatives, he can resume making plans for a visit to his childhood home, Indonesia. The trip was on for this week, but the White House cancelled it so Obama could stay in Washington to push through the Bill.

Once he lands at Jakarta, capital of the world’s largest Muslim state, he probably won’t make the same mistake he made a few years ago in Kenya, when he let himself be photographed wearing a turban. Still, he may find it hard to resist the urge to go native.

One of the reasons a lot of Americans find Obama oddly foreign is that he had an oddly foreign childhood: his formative years were spent in Indonesia. His half-sister, Maya Soetoro Ng, was born there. The rest of Obama’s childhood was spent in Honolulu, a Pacific Ocean capital soaked in East Asian culture.

What’s this got to do with Britain, or indeed with Europe? Plenty. Obama is the first US president who was raised without cultural or emotional or intellectual ties to either Britain or Europe. The British and the Europeans have been so enchanted with ‘America’s first black president’ that they haven’t been able to see what he really is: America’s first Third World president.

If you doubt it, remember the kick in the teeth he gave Britain over the Falklands just a few weeks ago. Obama had his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, fly to Buenos Aires to give American support to President Kirchner’s call for international negotiations over the Falklands. Amazing. What was more amazing is that all we’ve heard out of Number 10 and the Foreign Office since then is that it doesn’t mean anything.

Oh, yes it does, and Washington insiders know it does.

I’ve just been in touch with Dr James Lucier, a former US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Staff Director, about all this. He tells me: ‘Culturally, Obama detests Great Britain. He sent the bust of Churchill back without a fig leaf of an excuse. He insulted the Queen and the Prime Minister, giving them ridiculous gifts.’ At one point, ‘he refused to meet the prime minister.’

Here is what is happening, though the British Government seems oblivious of it. The Obama administration is ready to dump the Old World in pursuit of the One World.

Britain is being dumped. The special relationship, whatever is left of it, is over. Britain losing control of the Falklands to Argentina would just be collateral damage.

But France is being dumped, too. Obama’s ostentatious refusal to have dinner with President Sarkozy during his visit to France last year was no accident. Rather than meet the French president, Obama went off to a restaurant with his wife Michelle.

Germany is being dumped. Obama has been little more than dismissive of Chancellor Merkel. Russia in turn will be waved aside.

Most spectacularly of all, the European Union has now been comprehensively dumped. The American president has refused to attend what is supposed to be a US-EU Madrid summit in May.

What we have shaping up, but what the British Government doesn’t yet grasp, is that Obama has a conscious policy of down-grading America’s relationship with, first, Britain and then with the rest of Europe.

He believes that the US — yes, his own country — and Britain, and the leading European countries, too, for that matter, are imperial powers who ruthlessly exploited the Third World for their own profit.

And Obama is America’s first Third World president.

Forget Obama’s Chicago black cadence. It is a fake. He copied from the kind of black preachers that were unknown to him until he was a grown man and inventing his political image.

What the Obama administration has near-wiped from the president’s personal history is that his only childhood links with America were as a schoolboy in a fashionable private school in Asia-dominated Hawaii, where he was raised by his white, bank executive grandmother.

Chicago is not Obama’s homeland. It never was his formative influence. The president’s world view is more aligned with that of Indonesia.

You can be sure the gift Obama gives the President of Indonesia will be something more than the dvd box-set of old Hollywood movies he gave to Gordon Brown. The US president’s manner on the trip to Indonesia will be more the manner he showed to the King of Saudi Arabia last year. The king received a deep bow, something never done by any US president before. Obama also kow-towed to the Emperor of Japan and to the Chinese premier.

What’s going on? According to Dr Lucier, Obama’s policy is to disestablish the United States, Great Britain and Europe from the hegemony of world power, and elevate in their place the hegemony of the Third World under international governance.

Remember, Obama is a deracinated individual. He has no roots. He is a man from an Asian-Pacific background bred to no admiration for the ancient constitutional history which, until now, has reached across the Atlantic to bind America and Britain.

The president actually feels that the US Constitution, which grew out of Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights, is ‘inadequate.’

Indeed, Obama has stated that, because the US Constitution guarantees only ‘negative rights’ — that is, establishes what the US Government may not do to individuals or to the sovereign states — instead of giving people guarantees of food, shelter education and health care and the rest, it is ‘inadequate.’

That is one reason he has worked so hard to get the health care legislation through Congress. It is undoubtedly unconstitutional. Already, the attorneys-general of Florida and South Carolina are poised to challenge its constitutionality in court. At least another dozen state attorneys-general may join in the suit.

Obama has made it clear he despises both the US Constitution and the British tradition from which it springs.

His decision to send his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to Argentina to give support to President Kirchner is part of this anti-British atttitude. Mrs Clinton has supported President Kirchner’s demands that the fate of the Falklands be decided by the United Nations decolonisation committee.

It is all part of the same Obama world-view. This interference in South American affairs is not part of the old yankee — yanqui — imperialism. The important thing to note is that the Obama administration is not stepping in to decide the fate of the Falklands itself.

No, it wants to turn the dispute over to a Third World-dominated instrument of international governance, the UN.

One might imagine that Obama is willing to back Argentina over the Falklands because he thinks America has something to gain from it. That is not the reason. There is no profit for the US in cultivating the Latino presidents, and there is no particular policy to do so.

Rather, US support for Kirchner’s demand that the Falklands question be turned over to the UN is just another opportunity for Obama to strengthen the ideological world system which he hopes will one day overwhelm the old Anglo-Saxon Common Law America.

His vision is for the US to abandon its Constitution and its laws, which are tied to Britain, the country for which he has shown such disdain.

           — Hat tip: Paul Belien[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Churchill, Obama and Bush

Even before Barack Obama was inaugurated, the question of what to do with the bust of Winston Churchill on display in the Oval Office arose. The valuable bronze by Sir Jacob Epstein had been loaned by the British government to George W. Bush in mid-2001 — before Sept. 11, contrary to recent reports — and had gazed with weary wisdom over the Oval Office ever since. Not that Winnie was alone. Busts of Lincoln and Eisenhower rounded out the trio of wartime leaders President Bush had chosen to watch over him at work even when the nation was at peace.

The Lincoln bust remains in the Obama Oval Office. I haven’t received definitive word on the fate of the Eisenhower bust, but I strongly suspect it’s gone. So, definitely, is the Churchill bust, its unceremonial crating and return to the British Embassy generating a diplomatic flap and many mainly British news stories wondering, whither the “special relationship”?

There is some pathos to this reflexive plaint given that what makes this relationship special of late is the fact that the CIA considers the likeliest source of a terrorist atrocity against the United States to be British citizens traveling on the visa-waiver program — British citizens of Pakistani descent, that is. Either way, the relationship is necessarily different when some potentially lethal percentage of the British citizenry is no longer what you could call on our side. Or should I say “our” side to denote the postmodern shambles of conceiving of sides, “ours” or “theirs”?

I don’t mean to go abstruse on anyone, but there is a muddle here onto which the fate of the Churchill bronze shines a welcome if cauterizing beam. Indeed, packing up and returning Churchill to the British reveals more than the current state of U.S. ties with Britain. When President Obama declined the British offer to extend its loan, when President Obama indicated he wanted the bust out of the Oval Office, indeed, out of the White House, he sent a much more significant message. Namely, he demonstrated how completely our world has turned.

The London Telegraph attempted an explanation: “Churchill has less happy connotations for Mr. Obama than those American politicians who celebrate his wartime leadership. It was during Churchill’s second premiership that Britain suppressed Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion. Among Kenyans allegedly tortured by the colonial regime included one Hussein Onyango Obama, the President’s grandfather.”

In other words, such family lore is supposed to render the British titan who roused the Free World against Nazi Germany and warned the Free World against the Communist U.S.S.R. as popular with the new president as Guantanamo Bay. For the record, though, the Mau Mau story is a historic impossibility, at least according to the known timeline of events. As noted by the blogger Papa Whiskey via the Jawa Report, Obama’s grandfather was jailed and tortured between 1949 and 1951. That’s the story according to his widow, Obama’s “Granny Sarah.” Of course, Granny Sarah is also a primary source of the claim that Obama was born in Kenya, so who really knows? Obama himself has offered conflicting accounts in both cases. In his memoir “Dreams of My Father,” Obama describes his grandfather’s detention as lasting “over six months” before he was found innocent (no mention of torture). Whatever the case, Churchill didn’t become prime minister for the second time until the end of 1951. The Ma!

u Mau Rebellion didn’t begin until the end of 1952, one year after Obama’s grandfather’s release.

It seems that what we are seeing in the return of the Churchill bust is less a personal vendetta against Churchill the man and more an open breach in the Western continuum out of which a new orientation toward the Third World will become increasingly apparent. Having achieved a Washington-like apotheosis in the American imagination, Churchill serves not only as the preeminent symbol of resolve, courage and faith against the enemies of Western civilization. He serves as a symbol of Western civilization, period. One of President Obama’s first acts as president was to consign that symbol to a box and send it packing.

Somewhat complicating our understanding of the incident is the fact that even as George W. Bush may have retained the knickknacks of that same civilization, the 43rd president did more to break with it maybe than any previous president, certainly more than any previous Republican president. Yes, he ordered the military to war upon attack by Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, to fight ill-defined “extremism.” But Bush was first and always an internationalist, a globalist, with no national calling, for example, to stem the massive illegal Hispanic influx that has transformed large swaths of the United States by replacing their Western, English-speaking heritage with a Third World, Spanish-speaking culture.

In countless ways, President Obama is merely extending and expanding policies already initiated by his predecessor. From securing the border, which neither man has considered a priority, to securing a Palestinian state, which both men have considered a priority, to a shared belief in bailout packages that are nationalizing the economy, a neutered lexicon with which to address Islam, and legalizing millions of illegal aliens, there is in both leaders a transformational impulse, intensified and now recognized as radicalism in Obama’s case. Does this Bush-Obama nexus represent the place where what we once called “white guilt” and “black rage” overlap? It’s possible.

In the end, Bush kept Churchill in the room with him, perhaps to mollycoddle the Right. From the beginning, Obama did not, perhaps to avoid being mistaken for a “sellout.” I refer to the new president’s concern as expressed in his first memoir where he wrote about his maneuvering as an undergraduate at Occidental College:

“To avoid being mistaken for such a sellout, I chose my friends carefully: the more politically active black students, the foreign students, the Chicanos, the Marxist professors and structural feminists, and punk rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Frantz Fanon, Euro-centrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet, or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting Bourgeois society’s stifling constraints. We weren’t indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.”

Maybe he still is. Only now Barack Obama is taking that “alienation” out on the nation. Increasingly, this is how I interpret President Obama’s open, aggressive war on capitalism that is designed to wrest control of the economy from the private sector and transfer it to the government. I call that Marxism. Like the symbolic repudiation of Churchill, Obama’s Marxist attack on free markets plays to the same factions of the radical left he once set out to ingratiate himself with as a young man.

“When the native hears a speech about Western culture, he pulls out his knife,” wrote Frantz Fanon, the seminal theorist of anti-Western Third Worldism Obama mentioned above. When a Marxist, Third World-tilting president of the United States sees a bust of Winston Churchill, he sends it packing. He may have proven once again to the Left that he’s no sellout, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t just alienated an awful lot of the American people.

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Gino Disimone: Independent Candidate for Governor of Nevada

In my ongoing series of interviews with Conservative and Libertarian candidates for elected State and Federal office, I recently talked with Gino DiSimone — Gubernatorial Independent Candidate for Nevada. True pro-American patriot candidates deserve as much of our support as we can muster. Below is my interview with candidate DiSimone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

High School Students’ Video Inviting Obama to Martin County Draws Parents’ Ire

STUART — Using students to ask President Obama to come to an event next month that promotes local businesses hasn’t drawn the attention those behind the planned recovery rally expected.

A handful of parents have called Martin County High School and the School District to complain that about 2,000 students were basically a captive audience, taken from their homerooms to the football field last week, to shoot the video request to the White House by the school’s Junior Achievement Program.

Diana Blackard, whose daughter is a sophomore, said the situation could have been handled better. She said the students didn’t have a choice to participate in the video nor had parents been notified — through notes or on the school Web site.

“It’s almost like they were trying to circumvent the parents,” said Diana Blackard, whose daughter is a sophomore. “You can hear it on the video that Channel 5 has, that says ‘Everyone move in closer, move in closer,’ and ‘We’ve got to hear everyone shout ‘Yes we can, Yes we can.’ That’s a political slogan.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Judge Orders Release of Gitmo Detainee With Ties to 9/11 Attacks

WASHINGTON — A suspected Al Qaeda organizer once called “the highest value detainee” at Guantanamo Bay was ordered released by a federal judge in an order issued Monday.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi was accused in the 9/11 Commission report of helping recruit Mohammed Atta and other members of the Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, that took part in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Military prosecutors suspected Slahi of links to other Al Qaeda operations, and considered seeking the death penalty against him while preparing possible charges in 2003 and 2004.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson granted Slahi’s petition for habeas corpus, effectively finding the government lacked legal grounds to hold him. The order was classified, although the court said it planned to release a redacted public version in the coming weeks.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lawfare, Voluntary Surrender, And Right-Wing “Extremists”

Although Bill Clinton, and the Obama’s are all Harvard trained lawyers, none of them can legally practice law. That should give you pause, as the legal profession is not known for barring one of their own, for frivolous reasons.

I’m not saying that they’ve been disbarred, but they have, all three, “voluntarily surrendered” their licenses to practice law.


As Johnny Alamo notes, “A ‘Voluntary Surrender’ is not something where you decide ‘Gee, a license is not really something i need anymore, is it?’ and forget to renew your license. No, a ‘Voluntary Surrender’ is something you do when you’ve been accused of something, and you ‘voluntarily surrender’ your license about five seconds before the state suspends (or disbars) you.”


Why did Obama surrender his license? Citizen WELLs reports that it may have been because of charges that Obama lied on his bar application. As Al Martin notes, “they can’t punish someone who has resigned, which is why so many corrupt lawyers in Illinois resign before they are disbarred.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lesley Stahl Says House Victory Makes Obama Look Like…Reagan?

CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl appeared on Monday’s Morning Joe on MSNBC and surprisingly claimed that the victorious nationalization of health care made her think of Barack Obama as more…Reaganesque. He’s not Jimmy Carter any more, he’s Reagan:

You brought up Ronald Reagan, and I do see a lot of similarities with this president. In the polling, you see that some of his issues aren’t so popular, but he remains fundamentally inspirational. People think that he’s doing an honest job, those kinds of fundamentals. And one final thing is luck. Here’s how the president was lucky on this one. That insurance company, the few that raised those rates. I think health care was really dead, until those rates started to skyrocket above 30 percent. And that energized the president, the White House, the Democrats, and brought this thing back to life. So luck is another thing.

This was apparently Stahl’s fifth point of the morning, because Joe Scarborough replied: “I think your fifth point is great as well!”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Won’t Allow Any Photos of Him With PM Netanyahu

Obama will pose with Marxist thug Hugo Chavez. [photo]

But won’t allow photos taken of him with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

What a shock… Obama continues attacks on America’s allies. Chuck Todd on Morning Joe today reported that Barack Obama won’t allow any photos taken of him with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The Politico has more.

[Comments from JD: The photo of Obama greeting Chavez is a must see.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Health Care Reforms Show That America Has Become an ‘Elective Dictatorship’

Wow. Talk about close. 219-212. No wonder the anti-abortion Democrats were able to secure some last-minute concessions. If four representatives had switched sides, Obama would have lost the vote.

Has America been more politically divided over an issue since the Civil War? Civil Rights? At least that issue cut across party lines, whereas health care reform — or “socialised medicine”, as its opponents call it — has divided the parties right down the middle. Not a single Republican voted for the bill. (Admittedly, 34 Democrats voted against it.) This was a bitterly fought legislative campaign that gave the lie to Obama’s claim that his Presidency would be “postpartisan”. He is the most partisan President in living memory.

In this respect, Obama has had to conduct himself more like a British Prime Minister than an American Head of State. When I studied A-level politics back in the Reagan era, I remember being taught that the two great American political parties, unlike ours, only existed as electoral machines. They coalesced around one candidate every four years, then fractured again, with Presidents bolting together bi-partisan coalitions to push through legislation. The President didn’t depend for his survival on retaining the support of his party in the same way that our Prime Minister does and, hence, his party didn’t have to stay together after he’d been elected, at least not to the same extent. This, I was taught, was one of the advantages of America’s separation of powers. Because the executive branch of the government didn’t need to control the legislative branch in order to remain in office, it hadn’t developed anything like the same control mechanisms as the British Prime Minister. Th is meant the British people had more to fear from the centralisation of power than Americans. Elective dictatorship — the phrase Lord Hailsham coined to describe the dominance of Parliament by the government of the day — was a greater threat to Britain than it was to America.

[Return to headlines]

Rotarix Rotavirus Vaccine Contaminated, Officials Say

Federal health authorities recommended Monday that doctors suspend using Rotarix, one of two vaccines licensed in the United States against rotavirus, saying the vaccine is contaminated with material from a pig virus.

“There is no evidence at this time that this material poses a safety risk,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told reporters in a conference call.

Rotarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved by the FDA in 2008. The contaminant material is DNA from porcine circovirus 1, a virus from pigs that is not known to cause disease in humans or animals, Hamburg said.

About 1 million children in the United States and about 30 million worldwide have gotten Rotarix vaccine, she said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sheriff Baca Participates in Community Forum With Muslim Americans

Los Angeles: Six days after exchanging words with a Republican congressman in the Nation’s Capital about his relationship with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca takes part in a community forum today with Southland-area Muslim Americans.

The forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation, 1025 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles.

Billed as an introduction of the Muslim American Homeland Security Congress and community dialogue, today’s forum is part of the Sheriff’s Department Muslim Community Affairs Unit’s outreach efforts.

Last week on Wednesday, Baca appeared before a Homeland Security subcommittee in Washington, D.C., when things got testy.

Baca was testifying about his department’s initiatives to stay on positive terms with the Muslim community when Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) brought up Baca’s ties to CAIR and implied it helped groups that call for the destruction of Israel, KPCC Radio reported.

The radio station had a reporter in the subcommittee meeting and recorded Souder saying “there’s a substantial difference between protected speech and government officials going to fundraisers for organizations that do speech that is radical. And Sheriff Baca, you’ve been 10 times to the fundraisers for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which even the FBI has separated themselves from.”

Baca interrupted Souder, saying “and I’ll be there 10 more times.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Supreme Court Battle Quietly Brews Over Possible Future Nominations

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings to consider the nomination of Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The hearing is expected to be contentious, showcasing the differences in judicial philosophy between the parties, with conservative senators arguing that Liu’s record on divisive issues puts him outside the mainstream of judicial thinking.

Some believe Republicans are opposed to Liu’s nomination because they fear President Obama may be grooming Liu for a future Supreme Court vacancy.

“His nomination seems to me to represent the apex of judicial activist philosophy,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “His views represent a fundamental change in our understanding of the role in society of the court.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U-2 Spy Plane Evades the Day of Retirement

The U-2 spy plane, the high-flying aircraft that was often at the heart of cold war suspense, is enjoying an encore.

Four years ago, the Pentagon was ready to start retiring the plane, which took its first test flight in 1955. But Congress blocked that, saying the plane was still useful.

And so it is. Because of updates in the use of its powerful sensors, it has become the most sought-after spy craft in a very different war in Afghanistan.

As it shifts from hunting for nuclear missiles to detecting roadside bombs, it is outshining even the unmanned drones in gathering a rich array of intelligence used to fight the Taliban.

All this is a remarkable change from the U-2’s early days as a player in United States-Soviet espionage. Built to find Soviet missiles, it became famous when Francis Gary Powers was shot down in one while streaking across the Soviet Union in 1960, and again when another U-2 took the photographs that set off the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Newer versions of the plane have gathered intelligence in every war since then and still monitor countries like North Korea.

Now the U-2 and its pilots, once isolated in their spacesuits at 70,000 feet, are in direct radio contact with the troops in Afghanistan. And instead of following a rote path, they are now shifted frequently in midflight to scout roads for convoys and aid soldiers in firefights.

In some ways, the U-2, which flew its first mission in 1956, is like an updated version of an Etch A Sketch in an era of high-tech computer games…

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]


Internet Usage Overtakes Television Watching

For the first time ever, Canadians are spending more time online than they are watching television, according to a new report.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid last fall found that Canadians are spending more than 18 hours a week online, compared to 16.9 hours watching television.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘It’s Always the Bush League Schools, ‘ Coulter Contends

OTTAWA — After protesters at the University of Ottawa prevented Ann Coulter from giving a speech Tuesday night, the American conservative writer said it proved the point she came to make — free speech in Canada leaves much to be desired.

Then she said what she really thought of the student protesters who surrounded Marion Hall, making it to unsafe, in the view of her bodyguard, for the pundit to attempt entry.

“The University of Ottawa is really easy to get into, isn’t it?” she said in an interview after the cancelled event. “I never get any trouble at the Ivy League schools. It’s always the bush league schools.”

Coulter said she has been speaking regularly at university campuses for a decade. While she has certainly been heckled, she said this is the first time an engagement has been cancelled because of protesters.

“This has never, ever, ever happened before — even at the stupidest American university,” she said.

Coulter remarked on the reception she has had since entering the country.

“Since I’ve arrived in Canada, I’ve been denounced on the floor of Parliament — which, by the way, is on my bucket list — my posters have been banned, I’ve been accused of committing a crime in a speech that I have not yet given, I was banned by the student council, so welcome to Canada!”

The “accusation” of which Coulter speaks is a reference to an e-mail she received from University of Ottawa vice-president and provost Francois Houle on Friday, warning her that freedom of speech is defined differently in Canada than in the U.S. and that she should take care not to step over the line.

Coulter said that letter set the tone for and encouraged the protesters. She said it’s well known on the campus speaking circuit that conservatives need to travel with security staff, as she did.

“I’m pretty sure little Francois A-Houle does not need to travel with a bodyguard,” she said. “I would like to know when this sort of violence, this sort of protest, has been inflicted upon a Muslim — who appear to be, from what I’ve read of the human rights complaints, the only protected group in Canada. I think I’ll give my speech tomorrow night in a burka. That will protect me.”

Canadian conservative political commentator Ezra Levant, the other speaker travelling with Coulter on the three-city tour, presented by the International Free Press Society of Canada, told the half-filled hall that no more people would be able to enter and that Coulter had been advised it would not be safe for her to appear.

Coulter’s bodyguard ultimately made the judgment, after conferring with security staff on site.

In a short speech, Levant said Tuesday was “an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation, just like their vice-president did.”

Levant laid the blame squarely on Houle.

“A fish rots from the head down,” he said. “Francois Houle got his wish. He telegraphed to the community that the University of Ottawa is not a place for free debate.”

Houle could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Levant said the spectacle showed “just how eroded our Canadian values of free speech have become” — especially on university campuses.

“I think this has turned into a teaching moment for the entire country, a reminder that freedom of speech is a Canadian value,” he said.

Rita Valeriano was one of several protesters inside the hall who, with chants of “Coulter go home!” shouted down the International Free Press Society of Canada organizer who was addressing the crowd.

Valeriano, a 19-year-old sociology and women’s studies student, said later that she was happy Coulter was unable to speak the “hatred” she had planned to.

“On campus, we promise our students a safe and positive space,” she said. “And that’s not what (Coulter) brings.”

Outside the hall, Sameena Topan, 26, a conflict studies and human rights major at the U of O, spoke to the Citizen on behalf of a group of protesters.

“We have a large group of students that can very clearly outline the difference between discourse and discrimination,” Topan said of the protest. “We wanted to mobilize and make sure that’s clear on campus, that there’s a line between controversy and discrimination, and Ann Coulter has crossed it. Numerous times.”

“We had concerns about (the event) at the beginning, but especially after we saw what happened at the University of Western Ontario, when she called out a Muslim girl there and was saying she needs to take a camel because Muslim people shouldn’t fly. That kind of stuff just reaffirmed everything that we were afraid of and that’s when . . . we really got worried.”

Topan was pleased to hear the students behind her shout, “Hate speech cancelled!” in unison.

“I think that’s great. I think we accomplished what we were here to do, to ensure that we don’t have her discriminatory rhetoric on our campus,” she said.

Jonathan Reid, 18, a Carleton political science student and a fan of Coulter, brought a book to be signed.

During the protest outside after the event was cancelled, Reid and a group of other students shouted a counter-chant, “No more commies on our campus!,” while pumping their fists. The Coulter protesters moved forward to face them, and TV crew lights lit angry faces.

“It’s a shame,” Reid said of the cancellation. “They claim we’re the intolerant ones, yet they’re the ones who refuse to allow a Conservative speaker to come to campus. That is the definition of intolerance.”

U of O political science student Faris Lehn, 23, said he doesn’t support Coulter’s message, but had hoped for a debate.

“It’s too bad she didn’t get to speak because I think she would have made herself look more ridiculous than anyone here could have made her look,” Lehn said.

“The problem with Ann Coulter . . . is that the arguments that she uses don’t necessarily promote good debate, they promote this,” he said, glancing at the chanting crowd.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Church Seeks Closure on Abuse

The pope’s letter has met with consent from bishops in the Netherlands. But the Dutch victims of the large scale abuse that NRC Handelsblad recently brought to light are disappointed

By Joep Dohmen and Joke Mat

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, was the central message of the Sunday mass in Utrecht’s St. Catherine’s Cathedral. The chose for this theme was an explicit request for clemency on the behalf of clerics who have sexually abused children and illustrated the forces ripping the Catholic Church apart. The Church is trying to estrange neither victims nor perpetrators of the large scale abuse that NRC Handelsblad and RNW have recently brought to light in the Netherlands.

The mass took plays one day after pope Benedict XVI published a letter to the Irish faithful expressing his compassion and regret to the Irish abuse victims and their families. In the Netherlands, bishops responded to the publication with appreciation and agreement. They said the text also fully applies to the Dutch victims, even if they are not mentioned specifically. In Saturday’s letter, the pope did not mention any disciplinary action that the Church would take against clerics guilty of abuse. Instead, he wrote they should answer “before Almighty God” for their “sinful and criminal acts”.

For victims, not enough

Like the Irish Catholics, Dutch victims were disappointed by the letter. Peter Dijcks (54) from Rijswijk, was abused as a 6-year-old boy attending the Sint Henricus institute for the blind in the Dutch town of Grave. “The church fails to investigate to what extent this abuse was caused by the system itself,” Dijcks said. He feels the pope should have called for the “removal” of clerics who have abused children “from positions where they may yet claim further victims”.

Janne Geraets (57) said he felt these clerics should leave the Church altogether. “But I fear this would leave the pope without a Church,” he said. Geraets, who was abused at the hands of Salesian priests in Don Rua boarding school in ‘s-Heerenberg when he was 11, said that the letter showed the Church was trying to cover its tracks. But it will have to “face the music”, Geraets said. “The Church has helped abusers for years. This has to stop.”

The internal ecclesial inquiry that the pope announced, failed to impress Geraets. “An inquiry like that should be independent,” he said. Henri Looymans (53) from Middelburg said the Dutch government could play an important role in this respect. “The fundamental right to safety of a lot of children has been violated for decades, and perhaps will be again. The government should take the initiative here,” said Looymans, who was himself abused by two priests of the Brothers of Love order in Eikenburg boarding school in Eindhoven.

‘Your trust has been violated’

The mass in the St. Catherine’s Cathedral did not pass over the victim’s plight lightly. Coadjutor bishop Herman Woorts quoted a few trenchant phrases from the pope’s letter. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated,” he read. “Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings.” The coadjutor added the Church had to face up to its own mistakes. “Those should be acknowledged, not denied.” He mentioned the suffering “that many people have carried within them in silence for years.”

The priest reminded his congregation that no man is free from sin, calling on the story from the Gospel of John of the adulterous woman who is about to be stoned. When the scribes asked Jesus what he thought of the matter, he responded “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” after which the scribes let the woman be. Finally, Jesus told the adulterous woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.”

The coadjutor said this showed Jesus did not want to justify the woman’s sins, but was mostly trying to tell her to look within first.

Closing the book

The mass was proof of a strong desire to close the book on the painful matter for good. “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past,” was one of the first verses to be read from the book of Isaiah. De coadjutor mentioned “the four adults in our midst” who would soon be baptised. There were more, he had heard out in the parishes, sixteen all together who chose to undergo the Catholic ritual. “Small signs of a new spring. They may not make the news, but they are important,” he said.

After the mass, an old man grabbed his bike, which he had parked in an alley next to the church. He said he had mixed feelings over the abuse scandal he said. Why did it come to light only now, he asked. And what was the point? “The people should have been brought to justice years ago. It is as simple as that. Now they won’t be. The statute of limitations has long run out. Now the Church is being blamed for act committed by people in the Church’s service,” he said.

Other churchgoers — no one wanted to be quoted by name — refused to answer questions. A middle aged woman said she did not speak to journalists. “I feel that journalists are not doing a lot right at the moment when it comes to compassion,” she explained. A man with glasses said he felt the mass was a good one, and did well to convey the spirit of the pope’s letter. “The Church has shown its heart is open, that it is prepared to look within.” He refused to say anything further, on account of the media being “not particularly objective”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Church in Italy ‘Has Foiled Abuse’

Guidelines followed, checks stiffened, says top bishop

(ANSA) — Rome, March 22 — The Catholic Church in Italy has prevented child sex abuse, Italy’s top bishop said Monday amid debate over Pope Benedict XVI’s weekend letter to Irish Catholics on abuse scandals.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco praised Italian bishops for “promptly” following Vatican guidelines and “intensifying” scrutiny of candidates for the priesthood to prevent paedophilia. Addressing the bishops on the opening day of the annual Episcopal Council, he thanked the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, formerly headed by Pope Benedict XVI, for laying down the law on the issue.

“We are grateful to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” he said, “because even one case of this kind is always too much”.

Bagnasco, head of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), voiced his organisation’s support for the pope against alleged attempts to involve his “limpid figure” in the abuse scandal in Germany.

Benedict was head of the Munich bishopric when a predator priest was allowed back to work, but a subordinate said the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was unaware of the case.

Bagnasco blasted “strategies of generalised discredit” and said that priests were “men who, even during their time at seminary, cultivate their humanity in the fire of their love for Jesus”.

The CEI chief said the bishops echoed Benedict’s pastoral letter to Irish Catholics in “expressing all our regret, and our sympathy with those who have been subjected to the betrayal of a violated childhood”.

But he also said it was time to “question ourselves, without alibis, about a dominant culture, tearing the fabric of society…(in which) sexuality is disconnected from its anthropological significance (and) widespread hedonism and relativism are causing great harm”.

Soon after Bagnasco spoke, the head of Italian anti-paedophile association The Good Sweet, Roberto Mirabile, accused the Italian Church of being “terrified that the scandal of paedophile priests will break out in Italy too”.

A handful of cases in Italy over the last few years have made front-page headlines.

“The real problem are the bishops who stay silent,” said Mirabile, praising Benedict for taking the Vatican’s first ever official stance on the scandals. BERLUSCONI LAUDS POPE.

Earlier on Monday, Premier Silvio Berlusconi praised Benedict’s handling of the Irish scandals and called his open letter this weekend a “remarkably effective response to a very difficult situation”.

“The pope like his predecessors is often called upon to deal with complicated situations that become a basis for attacks against the Church,” he said.

“But he always finds a way to respond that it is both very remarkably effective and sincere”. “This is but more proof of (the pope’s) tremendous charisma”.

“In the name of the Italian government, I want to express the affection and solidarity the Italian people feel for him,” said the premier.

He added that “Italians are able to distinguish between human error and the enormous good that has been born out of our Christian culture”.

The Pope’s long-awaited letter on Saturday expressed “shame and remorse” to the victims of Irish priests, whose acts were described as “sinful and criminal”.

Seen widely as an unprecedented gesture of humility on the pope’s part, the letter also rebuked Irish church leaders and promised measures to bolster child-protection policies. But Dublin daily The Irish Times reported on Monday that the letter had not assuaged the anger of many victims, who were allegedly upset that the message “neglected the responsibility of the Vatican” in “protecting” child molesters in the Church.

Neither has the report difused concern about emerging reports of child abuse in the German province of Bavaria.

A spokesman for the bishopric of Regensburg confirmed on Monday that seven people have come forward so far in claiming they were abused by priests during the 1970s and 80s.

German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the pope’s letter “was cause for hope” that the Church would do its part to prevent incidents in the future and report them to the proper authorities if they did.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed her approval of the letter, in particular “its openness about the injustices committed and acknowledgement of the need for reparations”.

Several Irish bishops have offered to resign after two reports detailed decades of abuse and cover-ups in schools and the Dublin diocese.

Child-abuse scandals first erupted in the US and Australia in the late 1990s and have since spread to Europe with Austria, the Netherlands and the pope’s native Germany being the latest countries involved.

Benedict, who as doctrinal watchdog in 2001 laid down guidelines to keep initial probes in-house, has pledged new strategies to root out this “hateful crime”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Responsibility Claimed for 3 Athens Attacks

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 22 — The Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire group, together with the Team of Terrorists and the Lambros Funtas Squad, claimed responsibility with a letter on the website for three attacks carried out recently in the Greek capital. The first was perpetrated against the offices of extreme right-wing organisations Chrysi Avyi, the second against an immigrant centre, and the last against the residence of the president of the Pakistani community in Greece. Investigators underlined how the names of the groups seen until now, Cells of Fire-Team of Terrorists, now includes the Lambros Funtas Squad, named after a man who died a few days ago in the Dafni neighbourhood, not far from the centre of Athens, during a shootout with police. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Muslim Group Elects First Female No.2

Bologna, 22 March (AKI) — Italy’s largest Muslim organisation, the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII) has elected its first woman to a senior position. Italian convert Khadija Patrizia Del Monte, from the northern city of Reggio Emilia, was elected vice-president during the organisation’s annual general assembly in Bologna on Sunday. Del Monte converted to Islam in 1990.

“It seems that the election of sister Khadija Patrizia Del Monte, an Italian woman, to the vice-presidency signals an important change, above all from a cultural point of view,” Hamza Piccardo, told Adnkronos International (AKI). Piccardo runs the Italian Muslim website

The twenty-year-old Rome-based organisation was created to provide services to Muslims in predominately Catholic Italy.

On Sunday the UCOII also elected the Florence imam, Ezzedin el-Zir as its new president. El-Zir, a Palestinian, has lived in Italy for more than 15 years.

“At this time for me the most important thing is to rebuild our community inside in a way to make everyone understand we are an integral part of Italian society,” El-Zir told AKI after his election.

“I will work for the next four years in a way that everyone can understand how much we Muslims are an integral part of society. We are all Italians of Islamic faith and this is the most important concept to carry forward.”

He said Del Monte was chosen as vice-president, not because she was a woman but she was very capable.”

El-Zir — who been UCOII’s spokesman — has recently been involved in the founding of a new mosque near Siena, in the central region of Tuscany.

He will take over from Syrian Nour Dachan, who has led the organisation for around 10 years.

The UCOII consists of more than 130 mosques from all over Italy, where around 3 percent of the population is Muslim.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Islamic Prayers on the Streets and the Rule of Law

A group of men stop to pray in the Milan Gallery. Municipal police called but say they can not stop them. But all public demonstrations must be authorized and the law must be above everything.

Milan (AsiaNews) — I read a news story the other day that made me jump. The scene is Milan, in the middle of the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery, Wednesday 17 March at 17:00. A group of 7 people stop in front of the Giorgio Bernasconi silverware shop. Take off their shoes and jackets, lay them on the ground and kneel on them. One of them is an imam who leads the group, which begins to pray the pray ‘asr. The shop owner asks them to move away from his window. Nothing. The owner calles the police, who reply “they are praying, we can’t do anything”.

Bernasconi explains: “In the Milan Gallery, any type of public event needs authorization. There are municipal police who even book artists for daring to put the foot of a tripod on one of the mosaics and if someone dares to ride a bike, they receive heavy fines. But they did nothing; they did not even check their documents”. The Muslims explained that “when the time comes for prayer, wherever they are, they kneel and begin their liturgy.”

It is not an unfamiliar scene. In Viale Jenner it is a regular sight, as in many quarters of all European cities. It is obvious that, in this case at least, the action was planned and organized to give “testimony” to the “unbelievers” (kuffar) of the West!

It is a well studied act of religious propaganda!

But the scandal is not so much the attitude of the men in prayer. It is the reaction of the municipal police and the city. The street belongs to everyone, and nobody has the right to monopolize it, even for a quarter of an hour, without authorization. No matter what the reason: the procession of the Blessed Sacrament or prayer, political, social, sporting or any other kind of demonstration. The street belongs to everyone and can not be monopolized by anyone without prior authorization.

Beyond the fact that there is a question of principle. The law is above everything and everyone, even above religion. In this case, Muslims are not obliged to say their prayers immediately and on the street. The vast majority of observant Muslims, in Muslim countries, wait until they are home to pray. Furthermore, the Islamic Sharia authorizes the faithful to combine two prayers when the need requires it. So such behaviour cannot be justified by religious obligation. Anyway, it could not be used as an excuse! It is purely an act of propaganda and proselytizing.

The problem is twofold. On the one hand, Muslims often tend to think that religion is above the law and civil standards. This is because the concept of secularism in Muslim countries is almost nonexistent, despite the theories of some “orientalists” who claims that Islam, having no clergy like Christianity, is a secular religion, but we all know in our countries that clericalism in Islam is much greater than that of Christianity, even of Orthodox Christianity! In the common mentality, the “divine law” (but divine for whom?) exceeds the human law. Moreover, propaganda, Islamic Da’wa, is a religious obligation: every Muslim is expected to proclaim the profession of faith in the face of the wicked, and to invite them to Islam, the only true faith.

On the other hand, Homo Europaeus has become confused and has doubts about himself. Sometimes he behaves arrogantly in front of others, and sometimes he is silent and allows himself be droned out by the argument of others as if he felt guilty and was in need of forgiveness. Yet Europe, despite all its flaws (especially its spiritual emptiness) can be proud of its socio-political system. The mistake is to forsake this in the name of a false multiculturalism. The rules of the country, whatever they be, are binding on all. Even if they were wrong, they are valid until they are replaced by another lawful authority. Every concession is a step backwards for everyone.

We hope that this little incident will not happen again, and that everyone is made to understand what the Rule of Law means.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Disaffected Voters on the Rise

Pollster sees lower turnout in upcoming regional elections

(ANSA) — Rome, March 22 — The number of Italians who will not bother to vote in upcoming regional elections will be higher than in previous ballots, one of the country’s top pollsters told ANSA on Monday.

“The percentage of voters who will not cast a ballot will be higher than in the past. It’s true that it’s always difficult to estimate because those polled have a problem in saying outright they will not vote. But from the data we’ve gathered so far, I can say that there will be a substantial number of non voters,” said Mario Pagnoncelli, head of the Ipsos agency. According to Pagnoncelli, most voters are disaffected with politics “because while they are worried about the economic crisis and unemployment, politicians talk about other issues”.

Voters are also “fed up” with judicial probes involving both centre right and opposition politicians and “there have a been of those recently”.

Earlier on Monday, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini urged Italians disaffected with national politics not to shun the March 28-29 regional elections, saying that casting a vote was the best way of helping to solve problems.

“I urge Italians to vote because it is always the best way of reacting to problems,” he said during the presentation of his latest book, “The Future of Freedom”.

“Not voting has never been wise policy,” he added.

A number of recent polls have shown that Italians are increasingly disaffected with politics, and that the number of undecided voters may play a significant role in the March 28-29 elections in 13 of the country’s 20 regions.

Most polls show that an estimated 19% of the electorate is still undecided whether to vote or not.

Premier Silvio Berluconi, who on Saturday addressed supporters at a mass rally in a Rome square, has repeatedly said the regional vote is an important test for his two-year-old centre-right administration.

Berlusconi has canvassed votes by saying Italians must choose between his “can-do government” and the “small-talking Left”.

The centre-left opposition, which currently holds 11 of the 13 regions, says the vote concerns regional governments and cannot be seen as a sort of referendum for the premier’s policies.

Centrist opposition leader Pier Ferdinando Casini reinforced this stance on Monday, saying that Berlusconi was clearly worried about losing consensus because voters know he has failed to solve the country’s problems despite a huge parliamentary majority.

“Italians voted him in to solve their problems and two years later what’s happened: nothing, zero. The government has not dealt with a single issue”.

Democratic Party Chairman Rosi Bindi said the vote will backfire against the premier and his government’s ineffective economic policies to solve the economic crisis.

A poll published by Milan daily Corriere della Sera last week showed that four of the 13 regions are still up for grabs while six should be won by the centre left and three by the centre right.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said on Monday the centre right would be able to claim victory only if it grabs five regions.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pope’s Letter Disappoints Dutch Abuse Victims

Pope Benedict’s letter to Irish Catholics apologising for the sexual abuse scandal has been greeted with disappointment by Dutch victims, the NRC reports.

In the letter, the pope apologised to the people of Ireland and to thousands of victims of sexual abuse in past decades by Roman Catholic priests there.

And he criticised Irish bishops for ‘grave errors of judgement’ in dealing with the problem.

But the pope did not mention any sanctions against the bishops, and said simply that those who are guilty will have to answer to god for their crimes.

Dutch victims

‘I do not think someone who has abused children has any place left in the church,’ said Henri Looymans, who was abused by members of a religious order as a nine-year-old boy.

‘This pope is no reformer and I did not expect any more than this from him,’ he said.

‘What I miss is any reference to whether the church itself is responsible… and what measures have been taken to limit the risks,’ said Peter Dijcks, who was abused as a small child at an institute for the blind run by monks.

Government role

Meanwhile, caretaker minister for children André Rouvoet said he did not plan to order an inquiry into the role of child protection services in sending children to Catholic-run institutions.

According to RTL news, a number of Dutch victims had been placed in the boarding schools and seminaries by the social services.

Rouvoet said he first wanted to wait for the outcome of a report into the abuse claims set up by Catholic bishops themselves.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck in Austria: New Mosque Sparks Outrage

Muslim immigration is clearly changing the face of Europe in places like London, Amsterdam, and Brussels.

Austria is no exception.

I recently traveled to a small town outside of Vienna where local residents are up in arms over the newest local attraction: a multi-million dollar Islamic center.

To watch my report, click the link above.

[Return to headlines]

Sweden: ‘Workplace Pregnancy is Contagious’: Study

Pregnant women in the workplace affect the inclination of female colleagues to try for children, a new study shows. The same is however not true for expectant fathers.

If a woman at a workplace becomes pregnant, the chance of other colleagues becoming pregnant within 13 to 24 months increases by 10 percent, according to the study of birth patterns by Uppsala University researchers Lena Hensvik and Peter Nilsson.

A common explanation for variations in birthrates is the economic cycle, with more children born in upswings and fewer during recession. But changes occur so fast that the researchers sought further explanations, and they argue that their findings support the contention that the contagion effect is one of them.

“A great many things affect the timing of having children, with the most important being discussions within the family. The actions of people in their surroundings also constitute an important factor,” Peter Nilsson told news agency TT.

Education is also found to be a factor affecting the decision to have children, with some groups more inspiring than others.

Women with lower levels of education are influenced by colleagues with both higher and equivalent levels, while more highly educated women are not affected by those with lesser qualifications. This group is however influenced by female colleagues holding equivalent levels of education.

Expectant fathers were found to have no effect on females in the workplace. A future study will look at whether there is a contagion effect between male colleagues.

The Hensvik/Nilsson study was based on information from 150,000 women employed at Swedish workplaces with fewer that 50 staff from 1997-2004.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Swiss Threatened With Schengen Suspension Over Libya

Brussels, 22 March (AKI) — Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini on Monday warned that Switzerland may be suspended from the Schengen border treaty unless the country lifts a blacklist stopping Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and around 180 other Libyans from entering the country.

“We will ask Switzerland to remove the black list,” Frattini (photo) told reporters in Brussels, where he was meeting his European Union colleagues.

“The negotiators are working on it, a group of countries including Italy, Spain and Malta.”

“We have to find a diplomatic solution to resolve the issue. If a solution cannot be found we can use all the instruments of Schengen,” he said, referring to a new rule taking effect in April that allows countries to suspend a member state.

Libya in February banned citizens from most of the 25 signatories to the Schengen treaty from visiting the north African country.

Libya’s relations with Switzerland soured when Gaddafi’s son Hannibal was detained in a Swiss jail after he and his wife were accused of beating their servants in Geneva in July 2008.

Oil-rich Libya has withdrawn billions of euros from Swiss bank accounts and a Swiss national last month began serving a prison sentence in the Libyan capital Tripoli after being found guilty of overstaying his visa and illegal business activities.

The Schengen treaty provides for the removal of systematic border controls between the participating countries in the European Union, as well as others such as Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Priest Investigated for Suspected Abuse

A Catholic priest from a village in canton Thurgau has been arrested for the suspected abuse of children, the authorities have said.

Police said on Monday that the investigation into the 40-year-old Swiss was over “acts against the sexual integrity of minors”.

Evidence of possible wrongdoing by the man had led to his arrest on Friday, a statement said. More information has since been collected.

This has resulted in heightened suspicions that the man’s behaviour had been “on the borderline of possible criminal acts,” police added. Further investigations are being carried out.

The Swiss Bishops Conference says there have been 60 alleged victims of abuse by Catholic priests in Switzerland in the last 15 years. A priest from Chur resigned last week after admitting to sexually abusing children in the 1970s.

Also on Monday, it was confirmed that the abbot of a monastery in Einsiedeln in canton Schwyz had decided to set up an independent inquiry to look into possible cases of sexual abuse there by priests in the past.

The abbot, Martin Werlen, said the inquiry needed to be carried out quickly in order to maintain the credibilty of the monastery and put preventative measures in place. The public should also be informed of the outcome, he said.

The latest developments in Switzerland come amid numerous reports of abuse by Catholic clergy or church employees in Europe.

On Saturday the pope sent a letter to the church in Ireland over the issue, but did not address the problem in other countries.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Questions Raised Over Labelling of Halal Meat

Muslims have to respect strict dietary regulations, meaning that they should only eat halal food — including meat from animals slaughtered under Islamic practice.

Swiss Muslims can choose between many products bearing the halal label, but a single certification does not exist, which can lead to confusion and abuse.

Those following Islam make up an estimated around 20 per cent of the world’s population or more than 1.3 billion people.

This makes the halal food market an interesting one in economic terms. For example, Swiss food giant Nestlé had a turnover of SFr5.3 billion ($5 billion) in the halal food sector in 2008.

Switzerland’s 400,000 Muslims can buy the products in several stores. Among the larger ones supermarket chain Coop has been offering halal-labelled items since August 2009. Only Manor has been selling halal food longer.

Added to this are the independent butchers, seemingly giving a broad choice to Muslim consumers.

But in reality, shopping for Islamic food products can often be difficult because there is no single halal label. In fact, there are around one hundred different ones in circulation, from various issuing centres, like the Islamic Food Council of Europe.

Meat problem

Halal is an Arabic word which means lawful or permitted and in Islam covers behaviour, the way of speaking, clothing and food.

Mohammed Kaba, director of the Islamic Centre in Lausanne, explains: “The problem arises especially over meat. It is very important to know about its provenance — pork is in fact banned by the Koran — and the way of slaughtering, whether the animal has had its throat cut according to Islamic ritual, through the cutting of the two carotid arteries without it being stunned beforehand.”

But the issue is more complex than that, he added. “There are other types of meat which are also prohibited, for example everything which is linked to pork, such as wild boar,” said Kaba.

Alcohol is banned, as are animal fats, which also affects sweets.

Ritual slaughter

In Switzerland the practice of ritual slaughter — without stunning the animal before it bleeds to death — has been outlawed since 1978, under animal protection legislation.

However, as the freedom of religion and faith of both the Islamic and Jewish communities is set out in the Swiss Constitution, the import of ritual slaughter meat from other countries is permitted.

This is an issue that has been addressed by Coop. It pointed out in a statement when it launched its range of halal-labelled products that, “the animals are stunned before being slaughtered”.

In this way no Swiss laws are broken, the supermarket chain said. The only difference to the normal process is, “the presence of a person of the Muslim faith at the moment of slaughtering”.

This is a decision which has caused puzzlement among some Muslims, who find it difficult to consider the products truly halal. There are also others who cannot conceive of buying such items in stores which also sell pork and alcohol.

In addition, there are other issues. “There are people for whom any kind of meat which is not pork is allowed,” Kaba said.

This also applies to many butchers and restaurants which say they offer halal food when in reality they do not, he added.

Halal labelling

The Lausanne Mosque has therefore drawn up a list of butchers offering halal meat as set out in the Koran. This is established through inspections and by offering training courses for workers in the shops concerned.

In Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, meat is often bought from neighbouring Italy, where ritual slaughter is allowed.

Some Muslims would like to see a better labelling system. “The fact that Muslims can find halal food quite easily in big shops is certainly positive and necessary on condition that the labelling respects reality,” said Jelassi Radouan Samir, an Imam active in Ticino.

“Every true practising Muslim should observe the dictates of the Koran, it’s a life principle,” he added.

“As a consequence, it is very important to install a control mechanism on the halal market, which is too often subject to being abused for commercial ends. A Muslim should be able to buy a real halal product, not just a word. It’s a question of transparency and responsibility.”

Andrea Clementi, (Translated by Isobel Leybold-Johnson)

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

UK: Boy, 13, Becomes One of Youngest to be Put on Sex Offenders’ Register After He is Caught Raping Three-Year-Old

A 13-year-old boy has become one of the youngest people in Britain to be put on the sex offenders’ register after he admitted raping a three-year-old girl.

The little girl’s mother caught the teenager assaulting her daughter in the lounge of her Lancashire home last May.

When questioned by police, the boy also confessed that he had carried out a further serious sexual attack on the girl.

The youngster, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to charges of rape and sexual touching during an appearance at Blackpool Magistrates Court.

He was sentenced to a 12-month referral order and put on the Sex Offenders Register for two-and-a-half years by District Judge Jeff Brailsford.

The judge told the him: ‘I know you accept that this was a dreadful assault you committed on this little girl.

‘One can only hope there will be no lasting effect on her and that she can put it behind her and will forget.

‘I accept you had a difficult childhood, which was one of neglect. I also accept there is good evidence to suggest you were abused as a child and this helped to form the way you behaved.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Britain Expels Israel’s Top Spy in London as Miliband Tells MPs: Mossad Did Forge Passports Before Dubai Assassination

Israel’s top spy in London was ordered home today after the government said Mossad cloned British passports for use in the assassination of a Hamas terrorist.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband condemned Israel’s abuse of British passports for a hit squad as a ‘profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom’ and warned that it had put British lives at risk.

Britain’s tough response left Israeli officials ‘in shock’ since it amounted to a public rebuke of Israel for the murder of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room last year.

It is the first expulsion of a Mossad chief from the UK since the 1980s.

Israeli politicians effectively confirmed the killing as a Mossad hit, condemning Britain as disloyal ‘dogs’ and branding Mr Miliband a ‘hypocrite’ for failing to support the war on terrorism.

The Israeli government made placatory noises last night, talking of the need for friendship with Britain.

But MPs in Jerusalem demanded tit-for-tat expulsion of Britain’s military attaché in Israel.

Mr Miliband demanded an official letter of assurance from his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman that the abuse of British passports by Israeli spies will never happen again.

The Foreign Office also amended its travel advice, warning visitors to Israel of the risks of identity theft.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Council Chops Down 6,000 Trees at Beauty Spot to Stop ‘Doggers’

More than 6,000 trees have been chopped down by a council at a stunning beauty spot — to stop couples having sex in public.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Children’s Charity Boss Admits String of Sadistic Sex Attacks on Prostitutes in ‘Torture Chamber Bedroom’

A children’s charity boss has admitted a string of sadistic sex attacks on four prostitutes.

Matthew Byrne, 38, made his victims dress up as young schoolgirls before carrying out horrific sex assaults on them at his Wirral home.

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic descriptions]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Suspends Three Ex-Ministers Over Lobbying Claims

Three former ministers have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party “for bringing it into disrepute”.

Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon are under investigation over their apparent willingness to help a lobbying firm in return for cash.

They were secretly filmed by the Channel 4 programme Dispatches, but have denied any wrong-doing.

Tory leader David Cameron said people were “disgusted” and Justice Secretary Jack Straw said MPs felt “anger”.

The decision to suspend them was taken after Dispatches showed undercover footage of various politicians who were approached by a fictional US firm looking to hire them for lobbying work.

‘No evidence’

A source told the BBC that the Commons Standards Committee had approved Mr Byers’ own request for an inquiry into his actions.

Parliament’s standards commissioner has also been asked to look at complaints against Mr Hoon and Ms Hewitt.

Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Labour was carrying out its own investigation into the three former ministers.

He added that their suspension had “nothing” to do with their allegiance to former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blairite anger over their actions was “as strong, if not stronger than [among] those in the past who were on a different wing of the party”.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has dismissed Conservative calls for an inquiry into the alleged actions of officials and serving ministers.

Mr Straw said there was “not a shred of evidence, not a single scintilla of evidence” they had done anything wrong.


But he said: “It appears that former cabinet ministers are putting making money ahead of meeting their constituents…

“There’s anger… and incredulity about their stupidity… getting suckered by a sting like this.”

Labour rules allow those who bring the party into disrepute to be punished.

Mr Hoon said Mr Brown had told him his unpaid work with Nato, on the prime minister’s behalf, would now cease.

Mr Cameron, speaking at his monthly press conference, said: “Anyone who watched the Dispatches programme last night could not help but be, frankly, disgusted by what they saw.

He added: “We need a proper [government] inquiry into all of this.”

Chairman of the committee on standards in public life, Sir Christopher Kelly, said he had been “greatly saddened” by the Dispatches programme and “the further damage that will do to people’s perception of members of Parliament”.

He said rules banning paid-for advocacy in the Commons were “quite clear” and what was required was “proper enforcement and proper sanctions when misbehaviour occurs”.

“In all of this what’s really required is changes in behaviour, it requires a culture in which the principles of public life, selflessness, integrity and so on, are embedded in the behaviour of those who hold public office.”

Three other politicians were featured in the programme — Labour MP Margaret Moran, Labour’s Baroness Morgan and Conservative MP John Butterfill.

‘Cab for hire’

It is understood that Mr Butterfill has referred himself to the standards commissioner and Baroness Morgan has already referred herself to the sub-committee on Lords’ interests.

Ms Moran, already deselected by Labour as an election candidate following revelations over her expenses, has been suspended by the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Under Commons rules MPs can work for companies, but must declare payments and may not lobby ministers directly.

Mr Byers, a former transport secretary, was filmed saying he was like a “cab for hire” who would work for up to £5,000 a day and claimed to have saved millions of pounds for National Express, which wanted to get out of its East Coast mainline franchise.

Transport Secretary Lord Adonis told peers on Monday there was “no truth” in claims he came to “any arrangement”, dismissing the comments as “pure fantasy”.

Mr Byers also said he had spoken to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson about getting food labelling proposals delayed, on behalf of supermarket Tesco.

The business department, Tesco and National Express denied the claims — and Mr Byers said later he had overstated his case and had never lobbied ministers.

Lord Mandelson told the BBC had had no contact with Mr Byers about food labelling and said it was “rather grubby” that the MP had made “completely untrue, unfounded boasts… in order to get himself future business”.

Former Defence Secretary Mr Hoon was filmed by Dispatches saying he wanted to make use of his international knowledge and contacts in a way that “makes money” and that he charged £3,000 a day.

Mr Hoon has said he had made clear that he would not lobby government or “attempt to sell confidential or privileged information arising from my time in government”.

Ms Hewitt, a former health secretary, said she “completely rejected” the suggestion she helped obtain a key seat on a government advisory group for a client paying her £3,000 a day.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the three former ministers were not popular among Mr Brown’s team — Mr Hoon and Ms Hewitt tried to lead a coup against his leadership in January. All three are due to stand down as MPs at the next election.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: MP Quizzed by Police After Saying ‘Wearing Burkha Was Like Having Paper Bag Over Your Head’

An MP was investigated by police for inciting racial hatred over controversial comments about the burkha following complaints from a human rights association.

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said wearing the garment was the religious equivalent of ‘going round with a paper bag over your head’.

During a parliamentary debate last month he urged the House of Commons to ‘seriously consider’ banning the garment.

Now it has emerged police received a complaint about the Kettering MP a few days after his comments from the Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (NREC).

Officers rang Mr Hollobone to say a complaint had been made but the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case a few days later as there were no grounds for prosecution.

Debates in Westminster are protected by parliamentary privilege but Mr Hollobone said the complaint could have related to comments made inside or outside the Commons.

He criticised the ‘hypocritical and ‘patronising’ NREC today for championing freedom of speech while attempting to have him prosecuted.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Berlusconi Calls Pope Apology ‘Effective’

Rome, 22 March (AKI) — Pope Benedict XVI’s pastoral letter about child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland is an “incredibly effective response” to a “difficult situation,” Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said Monday.

In the apology published Saturday, Benedict expressed “shame and remorse” to victims and their families for “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy. His apology, a pastoral letter was read aloud at Masses in the 26 Catholic dioceses spread across the Irish Republic and the six British-governed counties of the north, and handed out in printed form to thousands of churchgoers.

The letter was “effective, at least for every person that doesn’t let themselves get led by hostile and prejudgement,” he said.

The apology did not go far enough for some critics, many who said the pope should have disciplined Cardinal Sean Brady, who is the head of the Irish church, and other church leaders for their mistakes.

The Pope’s pastoral letter was a response to hundreds of allegations, many going back decades, of systematic child abuse by Catholic clergy, have emerged this year in several European countries including Benedict’s native Germany, where it has caused outrage.

Benedict’s letter came after Brady apologised for mishandling a case of a notorious paedophile priest who allegedly abused hundreds of children in Ireland and elsewhere over several decades, before being finally jailed in the 1990s.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Montenegro: Bar-Boljare Motorway Contract Cancelled

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, MARCH 22 — The government of Montenegro has officially cancelled the concession agreement for the construction of the “Bar-Boljare” motorway with a Croatian consortium led by Konstruktor, calling the contract unsatisfactory. The reworked financial contract was presented on March 3 to the Montenegrin government by the Croatian consortium (which includes Institut Igh and Tehnika, together with Konstruktor). For the entire stretch of the motorway, the Croatian consortium, according to reports from the Italian Trade Commission (ICE), offered a net price of approximately 2.77 billion euros, while the government of Montenegro should have participated with 1.74 billion euros. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: FAP to Assemble First Chinese Truck by Year’s End

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 22 — Serbia’s truck-maker Fabrika Automobila Proboj (FAP) will start assembling Chinese trucks by the end of the year, reports Tanjug news agency. Representatives of Chinese DongFeng Commercial Vehicle will arrive in Serbia next week to discuss the steps that have to be made to this effect, said Head of the FAP Development Sector Miroslav Matovic. He said that an agreement on business technical cooperation will be signed till May 25, and that the action plan will be drafted by the end of the year. The scope of production will depend on the market, but the trucks will be competitive, since their price will be 30% lower than in other parts of Europe, he added. Matovic announced that this year, the focus of interest will be the Serbian market, and after that the foreign market. A detailed plan of production should be made which implies 51% of home-made parts. This will enable export to the CEFTA countries, Russia, Belarus and Turkey, said Matovic. (ANSAmed

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia Exhibits Its Cultural Heritage in France

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 22 — An exhibition dubbed “Serbia:the sacred ground of European culture” will be opened Friday, March 26, in Faymoreau, the French area of Vandee, and thus the presentation of the Serbian culture across the world will be continued, the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade released in a statement, reports Tanjug news agency. The exhibition will comprise of 136 items from the collection of the Ethnographic and National Museum in Belgrade and the Museum of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Serbian national culture heritage will be presented by items from several thematic units and collections: traditional ethnic costumes, embellishment — jewelry, rugs and rug making, and interior decoration. The aim is to present the high level of ethnic creativity and the spirit of the Serb population which developed in the Balkans, on the bedrock of ancient civilizations such as Daco-Thracian and Illyrian, Hellenistic and Roman, and also Byzantine and Slovenian heritage. The exhibition in France will be open by May 2.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Jeremic; Three No’s on Kosovo, Bosnia and NATO

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 22 — Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic emphatically underlined today what he called the “red lines” of Belgrade’s policy: no to Kosovo’s independence, no to the centralisation of Bosnia Herzegovina and no to NATO membership. Speaking today in Belgrade to students at private university Megatrend, the head of Serbian diplomacy — reports Tanjug — criticised those who “look at the Balkans through the lens of the ‘90s”. “They say that there are three problems and propose the following solutions: Kosovo must become an independent state, Bosnia Herzegovina must be centralised and all of the countries in the region must enter NATO,” said Jeremic, who stated that “the democratically elected Serbian government cannot accept this”. “We cannot accept an independent Kosovo, we cannot accept the centralisation of Bosnia against the will of the people and an entity (Republika Srpska, editor’s note), while Serbia has democratically made the decision to stay neutral militarily,” said the foreign minister. Serbia’s task, observed Jeremic, is, through dialogue with its European and Euro-Atlantic partners, to make decisions that are not against the democratic will of the Serbian people”. “It will not be easy since some of our partners have strongly rooted opposing positions, but we have never lost sight of our red lines and where we want to bring this country.” “Serbia’s priorities,” concluded Jeremic, “remain the defence of Kosovo’s territorial integrity, EU membership, good regional relations and the development of economic diplomacy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU: Conference in Tours About Medina of Tunis

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAR 22 — The Eu funded project Mutual Heritage is organising a conference on the appropriation of the cultural heritage of the Medina of Tunis, as part of a series of seminars covering various aspects related to cultural heritage. The conference, to be held on wednesday in the french city of Tours — according to the Enpi website (( — will tackle issues such as the appropriation of architectural and urban cultural values by civil society in contemporary Tunisia, the perception of the general public of its own cultural heritage in a socially and economically marginalised Medina, the information promoted by the media, and the stakes involved in urban planning. “The creation of an association for the safeguard of the Medina of Tunis in 1967 — explains Jellal Abdelkafi, a landscape architect and a lecturer at the conference — was the first of its kind in the arab and muslim world, and reflected an intellectual awareness of the value of cultural heritage. Since then, the concept of “Medina” as a national cultural heritage to be inscribed on the Unesco list of world heritage gained a new status, and became an icon of identity which transcends history and announces the new ideology of culture”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU-Morocco: Brussels’ Funds Aim at Common Market

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 23 — To strengthen the partnership between the EU and Morocco, ranging from political cooperation to updating Rabat’s institutional and legislative framework, moving towards the progressive integration of Morocco into the Community market. This is the item that weighs the most, in terms of funds, in the list of the priority of the national cooperation programme with Morocco financed by the European Commission in the context of the European neighbourhood and partnership instrument (Enpi). The list of expenditures of Brussels’ 2011-2013 programme relies on a budget indicatively worth 580.5 million euros, the highest among the partner Countries of the Mediterranean, which is subdivided into five lines of action. The “institutional support” for the positive outcome of the advanced EU-Morocco statute accounts for 230-235 million euros, 115-120 million euros for the “development of social policies”, 85-90 million euros each for a “good governance and human rights” and “protection of the environment”, up to “ economic modernisation” with 55-60 million euros. Initiatives provided for the next three years include support to lower poverty and to prevent unhealthy habitats, development of northern Morocco’s rural area, and also medical assistance for 8.5 million people living in poverty. The EU will then support reforms in the agricultural sector, justice, public administration and tax system, as well as promoting equality between genders and the introduction of environmental standards in economic activities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Med Cooperation With Morocco for Textiles and Tanning

(ANSAmed) — CAGLIARI, MARCH 22 — The International cooperation project “Develop of traditional handicraft skills and integration of productive systems in Morocco and Italy” will be launched on March 24 by the office of the head of the Sardinia region. The project is part of the key “Support programme for regional cooperation” (for countries in the Mediterranean area), in which the region of Sardinia is responsible for overseeing agreement and the participation of a number of Italian regional bodies as well as of countries from the southern edge of the Mediterranean, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. The project aims to contribute to the process of socio- economic integration between Italy and Morocco, through a series of initiatives geared towards the protection and the development of local production, such as traditional handicraft. The integration of productive systems is also in order, with particular reference to the textile and tanning industries. The protection and development of local skills should not only be considered a fundamental element towards maintaining differing and specific cultural identities, but also and especially a strategic development tool. Two categories of action have been drawn up. Firstly, the protection of traditional handicraft skills, with characteristics suited to the demands of international markets. Then comes the promotion of economic cooperation aiming to favour direct communication between productive systems on both sides of the Mediterranean, with the singling out of integration and collaboration possibilities, as part of the global chains of Euro-Mediterranean value. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 19 New Dams to be Built by 2014

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MARCH 23 — Over the next five years Algeria will build 19 new dams that will come on top of the 63 ones currently in operation. The announcement was made by minister of Water Resources Abdelmaled Sellal in an interview with French speaking newspaper El Watan. The minister explained that “In the context of the 2010/2014 five-year-plan, we are planning the construction of 19 dams for which we will issue a tender as soon as possible”. Sellal pointed out that Algeria passed from 40 dams in the 1970s to the current 66, of which 63 are operational, and added that “the delivery of the last three hydraulic infrastructures is scheduled for this year”. The five-year-plan provides an investment of 150 billion dollars for many infrastructures such as the 19 dams and more than one million dwellings. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Islamic Jihad Criticises New Imam Al Azhar

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 23 — The Islamic observatory led by Yasser El Serri, an exponent of Egypt’s ‘Islamic Jihad’ movement, criticised the nomination of Mohamed Ahmed al Tayyeb as the new Great Imam of Al Azhar insofar as a member of the political office of the national democratic party in power. El Tayeb was nominated in recent days by president Hosni Mubarak, and replaces Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, who died on March 10. In a statement reported in Cairo El Serri claims that that “the role of the great Imam of al Azhar enjoys an important position in the Islamic world and must be independent from all political parties”. The statement claims that it is the first time that an Iman of al Azhar is a member of the democratic party in power, which means that this party wants to guarantee al Azhar’s loyalty to the regime”. The statement asks whether the new great Imam “can be objective in the face of shameful behaviour by the regime in power when it comes to problems such as the Palestinian cause and the niqab”, the Islamic face veil. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Abbas: For Talks Israel Must Free 2,000 Convicted Terrorists

[Caveat: from DEBKAfile — BB]

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made US presidential envoy George Mitchell go and find him in Amman, only to lay down a fresh prohibitive condition for indirect peace talks to begin: Israel must first open its prison doors to free 2,000 Palestinian terrorists, twice the number demanded by Hamas for handing over kidnapped soldier Gilead Shalilt. And so another Mitchell mission runs aground.

[Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Threatens to Delay Peace Talks by 1 Year

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, MARCH 23 — Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu stated today in Washington that if the Palestinians do not withdraw the request for a total freeze on Israeli settlements, peace talks in the Middle East may be delayed by one year. After having met some US members of parliament in Congress, Netanyahu stated that “We must not remain trapped by illogical and unreasonable requests”. According to the Israeli premier, the Palestinian requests for a total freeze on settlements “could delay peace negotiations by more than a year”. The request for a total freeze was also presented by the United States. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Victimization of Jewish Refugees From Muslim Countries

One of the unreported aspects of Obama’s manufactured insult over an Israeli housing project in Jerusalem is the way in which the administration has targeted Jewish refugees from Muslim countries.

While media reports frequently denounced Interior Minister Eli Yishai, as a “Right Wing Extremist”, for approving one stage of the planned housing project — what they did not report was the larger story. Eli Yishai is the head of the Shas party, one of Israel’s largest political parties, which represents the interests of Sefardi and Mizrahi Jews from Muslim countries. And the housing project would have benefited Jerusalem’s sizable population of Jews from Muslim countries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama the Muslim Meets Netanyahu the Jew

Israel knows something about negotiating with Muslims. For more than six decades, despite continued attacks by its Arab neighbor states and terror campaigns in its streets, Israel has striven to find peace with them. The Palestinians, an invention of Yassir Arafat, have been maintained as the longest existing group of refugees anywhere in the world by the United Nations.

Imagine, then, the audacity of this administration to demand that the Israelis stop building housing developments in their own capitol city of Jerusalem, backed up by threats to withhold the military means with which Israel can defend itself against Iran and its other enemies in the region.

In his AIPAC address Netanyahu pointed out that the “fanatic hatred of Western civilization predates Israel’s establishment by over one thousand years. Militant Islam does not hate the West because of Israel. It hates Israel because of the West; because it sees Israel as an outpost of freedom that prevents them from overrunning the Middle East.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Peace Partner’ Plans ‘Resistance’ In Israel’s Capital

Some analysts blaming Obama administration for emboldening Arabs

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority has made a strategic decision to coordinate continued “resistance” in the eastern sections of Jerusalem, according to Palestinian security sources speaking to WND.

The sources, close to both Hamas and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, said Palestinian protest activities will focus on Jerusalem instead of the West Bank in hope of increasing pressure against Israel to discuss final-status issues in proximity talks brokered by the Obama administration.


“Palestinians see the Obama administration’s decision to attack Israel as an invitation to adopt a more confrontational line,” wrote Haaretz reporters Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Shocking Example: How NY Times Coverage Buries Middle East Reality; Find the Four Gigantic Errors

by Barry Rubin

In my entire life I have rarely read an article which simultaneously showed the need to be well-informed before reading a newspaper and the shocking shortcomings of mass media coverage of the Middle East than this minor piece about the reopening of the Cairo synagogue. I’ve never said this before but will now: If you want to understand the Middle East’s reality and how it is distorted in the media, read the following anlysis.

Have a little patience and I think you will see precisely what I mean.

There are four huge-gigantic-gaps in this article that show how the Middle East story is being missed. The word “gap” here is polite. I can think of a number of less polite words defining the combination of whitewash and ignorance displayed here.

Here is the link. Go and read the short piece if you want to see if you can spot them, then come back and read my response. Or, if you prefer, read my analysis first. It’s up to you.

Ok, here we go.

The headline for this story is, “A Synagogue’s Unveiling Exposes a Conundrum.” So, naturally, you want to know what the conundrum was. The article explains:

“The restoration project, and its muted unveiling, exposed a conundrum Egyptian society has struggled with since its leadership made peace with Israel three decades ago: How to balance the demands of Western capitals and a peace process that relies on Egypt to work with Israel with a public antipathy for Israel.”

So here is point number one-how can the article not even mention the Egyptian government’s own role in stoking public antipathy toward Israel? Of course, this antagonism is also the product of history and to a considerable extent comes from the public itself. Yet day after day, the Egyptian government’s religious, educational, media, and other institutions preach slander and hatred. toward Israel. There is no effort in terms of communication with the public to reduce antagonism.

Let me make it clear: I am not blaming Egypt’s government for the very existence of “public antipathy,” but not to mention its role in this process at all is shocking. The effect is to play down the role of regimes, even moderate ones, in so heating up the atmosphere as to make full peace and normalization close to impossible. Their fault, as opposed to criticism of Israel for the lack of resolution in the conflict, gets buried.

Here’s point two. One of the main people quoted in the article is Zahi Hawass, general secretary of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. Here is what it says about him:

“‘This is an Egyptian monument; if you do not restore a part of your history you lose everything,’“ said Zahi Hawass, the general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, which approved and oversaw the project. “I love the Jews, they are our cousins! But the Israelis, what they are doing against the Palestinians is insane. I will do anything to restore and preserve the synagogue, but celebration, I cannot accept.”

Later his role is again mentioned:

“But the work was completed, and at first the authorities told members of the Egyptian Jewish community that the news media could not attend the ceremony because they wanted to make the official announcement themselves. Then Dr. Hawass announced he was canceling that, too.

“‘I am trying to give the Israelis a message that they should make peace,’ Dr. Hawass said.”

So the New York Times allows Hawass to talk about how he loves the Jews and he even wants peace with Israel, he just wants them to be a bit more flexible…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Kirkuk: Ex PM Allawi Leading Over Kurdish Parties

With 92 per cent of ballots counted, secular Al-Iraqiyah coalition heading for victory over the Kurdistania alliance. The province is strategically important because of its huge oil reserves. Former prime minister, who is ahead of outgoing PM al-Maliki, might also score a victory at the national level as well.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Before the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq, there was no question of who dominated politics in ethnically mixed Kirkuk; it was the two main political parties in the neighbouring Kurdish autonomous region: Massud Barzani’s Democratic Party of Kurdistan (PDK) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (ADK). After 92 per cent of the ballots were counted, the situation is different.

Before the election, the Kurdistan Alliance (which includes both PDK and ADK) was seen as the probable winner. After it, former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s secular Al-Iraqiyah coalition appears to be ahead by a slim margin of 3,000 votes. This could give the province’s Turkmen and Arab minorities a greater voice.

Should this scenario materialise, Kurdish hopes for the annexation of oil-rich Tamin province would become more complicated.

For the first time, Turkmen and Arabs ran under the same banner, that of the Al-Iraqiyah coalition, which never shied away from setting this goal as its top election objective.

The relative decline of the Kurdistania alliance as the PDK-ADK coalition is called was not only the result of the Turkmen-Arab alliance but also because of a split in the Kurdish camp with the rise of the Goran party.

Kirkuk thus remains a time bomb because of its oil, which was the reason Saddam tried to “Arabise” the city by displacing Kurds and bringing in Arab settlers. Now, displaced Kurds are coming back and want to reclaim the city for their own autonomous region.

For analysts, whatever the outcome of the elections, the community (whether Shia or Sunni Arab, Kurdish or Turkoman) that feels estranged by the election results will not accept the verdict of the ballot box without a protest.

Tensions are also rising at the national level where final results are expected on 26 March. Victory might go to the Al-Iraqiyah coalition, which is currently leading the vote count by a margin of 7,000 votes over the State of Law alliance led by outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In the meantime, the Central Election Commission has rejected demands for a recount.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Obama Recalls Bunker-Buster Bomb Kits to Bar Israeli Strike on Iran

[Caveat: from DEBKAfile — BB]

Shortly after the flare-up of a US-Israel row over new homes in East Jerusalem, US president Barack Obama ordered a consignment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions- JDAM already on its way to Israel to be diverted to the US Air Force base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. This step in mid-March, the pointer to a US arms embargo for preventing Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites, is first revealed here by debkafile’s military sources.

[Return to headlines]

Saudi Hilal Challenges Fundamentalists Through Poetry

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 23 — “Her brave face was covered by the nijhab, but her honest voice was not reduced to silence. Good luck for the finals Hissa Hilal”: such is the anonymous comment in a Middle East blog ahead of a poetry competition set up by Abu Dhabi Tv that is followed across the entire Arab world, in which Hilal, a Saudi woman, unexpectedly presented some fierce verses against radical Islamic clergymen. Verses that gained her applause in various blogs of the region, by the audience in the Television studios of the Arab Emirates and of the three judges who admitted her to tomorrow’s decisive show, where in the company of another 5 poets she will fight for the final prize: more than 1.3 million dollars. But they also made her the target of explicit death threats, because her words were intensely disliked by many fundamentalists. With a soft voice carrying a strong local accent that is hard to understand outside of the Gulf Countries, Hilal intoned her 15 verses stating that she “saw evil in the eyes of the fatwa”, in other words the religious edicts issued by “those who sit in seats of power”, who she described as “monsters, barbarians, full of rage and blind, who wear death like clothes held by a belt”, a clear reference to suicide attackers. Age 40, mother of four sons, Hilal lives in Riyadh and is apparently not at all scared by the echo of her poetry and the threats she received. “Many people are scared and stay silent. They see the dangers which surround our (Arab) Nation. Many poets choose to write only about their daily problems. But to stand on a stage you need to deal with great issues”, she stated two days ago, before reciting her poem in front of the television cameras. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Scholars to Rethink Jihad in Turkey’s Mardin

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — A radical “fatwa” or religious opinion, decreed by a scholar in Mardin seven centuries ago will be questioned next weekend in the same city by an international team of top Islamic scholars. More than 20 authoritative clerics from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other predominantly Muslim countries will discuss why “jihad,” or holy war, should be understood in a more peaceful perspective. The story, as daily Hurriyet writes, goes back to the 13th Century, when much of the Muslim Middle East was occupied by Mongols. The latter destroyed many Muslim cities and massacred whole populations, but over time, some of the ruling Mongols converted to Islam. Yet they continued to implement their pre-Islamic “yasa,” or law, rather than the Shariah devised by Islamic scholars. It was Ibn Taymiyyah, a scholar from the strict Hanbali school, who condemned this “half Islam” and renounced the Mongols as hypocrites rather than real Muslims. He also argued it was a religious obligation for “real Muslims” to wage jihad on these “apostates.” In the modern age, radical Islamist groups such as the Takfir wal-Hijra (Excommunication and Exodus) of Egypt, terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda have also used the same source of justification. “This justification for violence, known as the Mardin fatwa, has become a tool for radical terrorist groups,” said Aftab Malik, head of an Islamic Institute in Britain and one of the organizers of next weekend’s meeting. “That’s why we have chosen Mardin.” The Artuklu University of Mardin, which will host the event, made the purpose even clearer by naming it: “Mardin, the Land of Peace.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Turkey’s Kurds Celebrate Norouz Under the Watchful Eye of Police

No incidents are reported, but 29 people are stopped for openly praising the PKK, the Kurdish Party fighting for Kurdish autonomy. Since 1984, 45,000 have died in the conflict.

Ankara (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Tens of thousands of Kurds gathered yesterday to celebrate Norouz, the Persian New Year, and ask the government to keep its promise to grant their community greater freedom. Thousands of police agents were deployed to keep the various events under control. No incident was reported.

Norouz falls on the spring equinox and is celebrated throughout Central Asia, especially in Iran. In southeastern Turkey, home to Turkey’s Kurdish population, celebrations saw tens of thousands of people come together. At least 3,000 police agents and various helicopters were used to maintain order in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkish Kurdistan. In the past, similar celebrations had ended in clashes with police, resulting in tens of deaths. In 2008, festivities were banned.

This year, the event was observed without a problem. In Istanbul, home to a large Kurdish community, police stopped and interrogated 29 people, who were caught shouting slogans in favour of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party led by Abdullah Ocalan, currently in prison on terrorism charges.

On the eve of Norouz, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan urged everyone to choose reconciliation. Last year, he pledged greater autonomy and prosperity for the Kurdish region, but tensions and clashes with PKK members have prevented any significant move.

Since 1984, some 45,000 people have died in clashes between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish army. The same period was marked by periods of intense fighting and moments of truce.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Reform: Controversy Between AKP-Magistrates

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 22 — A few hours before the beginning of a round of talks between members of the radical Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP of Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan) and opposition parties to explain their draft containing the amendments for a mini-constitutional reform desired by the AKP, a protest by the magistrates calling the package “anti-constitutional” has already exploded. According to the AKP, the purpose of the reforms are to “restructure” the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK, equivalent of the governing council of the judiciary) and the Constitutional Court to guarantee a more democratic process in the selection and careers of judges. Based on the mini-reform package, the number of judges that are members of the HSYP will increase from seven to 21, seven of whom will be appointed by the government and Parliament, and another 14 elected by judges and prosecutors. But today Supreme Court leader Hasan Gerceker unequivocally stated that the reform proposal of the Charter, announced as necessary to adapt to the terms requested for Turkey’s membership in the EU, is “anti-constitutional” and in reality serves the purpose of taking powers away from the magistrates. A point of view also held by Kadir Ozbek, the Vice-President of the HSYK, who said that the government “is mocking us. With this reform the AKP is trying to infiltrate into the magistrate” and announced a meeting of the HSYK tomorrow to discuss the issue. The opposition is also suspicious of amendments to the Constitution, seen as an attempt by the government to take control of the judicial system. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition group, is similarly sceptical because they fear that the government’s proposal tends to erode judges’ independence and said that they are willing only to support the amendment that abolishes the provisional article 15, which calls for those responsible for the 1980 coup to not be punished. The second opposition party, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is certain that the AKP is trying to politicise the magistrate and make it subordinate to executive power. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Constitutional Reform; Erdogan Warns Judges

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 23 — Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdogan stated today that judges have no right to object to the proposed reform of the constitution promoted by his party with Islamic roots Justice and Development (Akp), which however the oppositions view as an attempt by the government to take power away from magistrates and bring the Country closer to Islam. According to Akp the purpose of the reform is to “reorganise” the Supreme Council of Judges and Attorneys (Hsyk, the equivalent of Italy’s Governing council of the judiciary — CSM) and the Constitutional Court, in order to guarantee a more democratic selection and career process for magistrates that will be subject to the government’s control. The reform also provides that it will be harder to close down political parties, which to date remains under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court: only a party charged with acts of violence and terrorism will face banishment and the opening of a procedure for the closure of a party will have to be previously authorised by Parliament, whereas at present any action must start from the Supreme Court of Appeals. The military will also be tried by civil courts and taken away from judgement carried out by magistrates of the armed forces. The oppositions have already announced that they plan on filing an appeal with the Constitutional Court to stop the package of reforms presented by Akp. But today Erdogan, speaking to his party’s parliamentary group, and making reference to the judges, stated that “they should stop interfering with the executive and legislative powers”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Nearly Two Mln Tourists in First 2 Months

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 23 — Turkey hosted 1.7 million tourists in the first two months of 2010 as Anatolia news agency reports. Culture & Tourism Ministry’s web-site stated on Tuesday that the number of tourists, who visited Turkey in this period, increased 6.85% when compared to the same period of 2009. Germany, with 15%, sent the highest number of tourists to Turkey, followed by Iran with 11.37% and Bulgaria with 9.11%. These countries were followed by Georgia, Syria, Russia, Greece, Azerbaijan, Britain and France. Turkey hosted 264,585 German tourists, 200,600 Iranian tourists and 160,639 Bulgarian tourists in January-February 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Unveils 5-Year Strategic Plan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 23 — Energy import-dependent Turkey has unveiled its 5-year strategic energy plan, as Anatolia news agency reports. In its new plan for 2010-2014, Turkey plans to increase power generation using domestic resources, diversify natural gas suppliers, increase the amount of oil pumped to Turkey’s oil hub Ceyhan and begin construction of nuclear power plant by the year 2014. As of end-2009, Turkey had oil reserves which could meet consumption for a year and natural gas reserves enough for two months, the ministry report said. Turkey’s producible oil reserves are estimated at around 39.4 million tons and natural gas reserves are 6.1 billion cubic meters. Turkey’s annual oil consumption is around 31.1 million tons and natural gas consumption is nearly 36 billion cubic meters. Turkey makes natural gas imports from five supplier countries. Turkey supplies two thirds of its natural gas need from Russia. However, Turkish government wants to reduce its dependence on Russia and plans to cut Russian stake in Turkey’s gas imports to below 50% in a bid to diversify suppliers. Turkey also plans to rise its oil production thanks to its projects launched to explore oil and natural gas in the Black and the Mediterranean. According to strategic energy plan, Turkey plans to extend the duration of a crude oil pipeline deal with Iraq, finalize negotiations on Nabucco pipeline project deal this year, commence construction of the Nabucco pipeline in 2011, launch the project to connect natural gas networks of Turkey and Syria in 2011. The governments also aims to make Ceyhan, a port in the southern part of the country, a wholly-integrated oil hub by the year 2015. The amount of oil pumped to Ceyhan is expected to reach 500 million barrels a year. On electricity, Turkish government plans to complete construction of several coal-fired thermal power plants and hydropower plants throughout the country by 2013. Planned power plants have a total capacity of 8,500 megawatts. One of government’s priority is to start construction of country’s first nuclear power plant by 2014 and increase the ratio of renewable energy resources to 30% in total energy generation by 2023. According to government’s plans on energy-efficiency, Turkey will save 10% energy by 2015 and 20% by 2023. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Women Mobilise for Law on ‘Baby Brides’

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 23 — In Sanàa women are mobilising: several hundred protested today in Yemen to support a law banning the marriage of girls under the age of 17. Just two days ago thousands protested against the same law. Underneath a burning sun and covered from head to toe in black niqabs, the demonstrators, who arrived in the city on about ten buses on Sunday, warned the parliamentary committee that will examine the text of the law in the coming month to reject it because, they chanted, “it is not permissible to ban what God allows”. Supporting their view is also a ‘fatwa’ (religious legal pronouncement) stating that those who support the law are apostate. The fatwa was signed by a group of influential religious figures including Sheikh Abdul Majid al Zindani, who according to the U.S. was one of the spiritual teachers of Osama bin Laden. Today a response arrived: a rally organised by various groups for the defence of women’s rights in Yemen, many of which support the government. In reality, not many people were present at the event held in front of Parliament, but the group did include Nojoud Mohammad Ali, who has become a symbolic figure in the fight against forced marriages in Yemen. Nojoud was forced to marry a 28-year-old man when she was eight, but in 2008 she reported her father to authorities and obtained a divorce. Many today also remembered Fawzia Abdallah Youssef, who died in September of last year due to a haemorrhage in the Saudi Arabian hospital of Hajja, north of Sanàa, while she was giving birth to a still-born baby at the age of 12, which she had with her husband, who she had married the year before. The practice of forced marriages in Yemen is well rooted and the law that intends to regulate them in reality was already approved in February last year, but was then blocked and sent to the parliamentary commission to be examined by a group of delegates who labelled it as anti-Islamic. According to a study by the Social Affairs Ministry, one-fourth of Yemenites marry before the age of 15. This is partly due to a tribal structure of society and widespread poverty, especially in rural areas, while religion also plays a fundamental role in the practice. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

China: Worst Drought in a Century Wipes Out Harvests in Southwestern China

Rainfall drops 80 per cent. About 51 million people face water shortages in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Chongqing. Food prices hit the roof as speculators horde production. The danger of street protests increases.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — An unprecedented drought has hit southwestern China. Unusually high temperatures and dry conditions have cut rainfall by 80 per cent over last year in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Chongqing. Water shortages affect about 51 million people. Commodities like sugar cane, flowers, tea, fruit, rubber and coffee have taken a beating with output reduced by as much as 50 per cent. Given the situation, the authorities have begun to fear unrest and sent more than 10,000 armed police to the affected regions.

Wei Guojian, secretary general of the Guangxi Sugarcane Association, said yesterday that the wholesale price of a tonne of white sugar had increased by 23.8 per cent, from 4,200 yuan in November to 5,200 yuan. This increase was mainly due to “a significant reduction in the sugar production resulting from the drought in Yunnan,” which “dropped from 2.25 million tonnes last year to 1.6 million tonnes this year.”

Yunnan’s is the mainland’s second largest sugar producer after Guangxi, which also sustained severe losses in terms of sugar production, a year-on-year drop of 830,000 tonnes, or nearly 11 per cent.

The decline in production will affect mostly domestic consumption. Little is exported since sugar cane does not usually yield high quality sugar.

The quantity of flowers produced in Yunnan has plummeted as well, from one million to roughly 700,000 a day, but the price has risen some 50 per cent from last year. On average, the province sends about 14,000 roses to Hong Kong every day, and exports tens of thousands of flowers to overseas markets including Japan, Russia and Thailand.

“A top-quality red rose, for instance, used to be sold at between one yuan and 1.5 yuan, but this year, prices range from 1.5 yuan to two yuan because of the drought,” Hu Yang , of Yunnan Lidu Flower Development.

The drought has also affected 200,000 hectares of tea plantations and destroyed more than 3,300 hectares of tea trees in Yunnan since last autumn.

More than ten million Yunnan residents now face drinking water shortages; many areas have already been forced to get water far from home.

Altogether more than 50 million people in the different provinces are affected by the drought, including more than three million in Guizhou who were facing actual food shortages.

In some areas, high temperatures have led to wildfires, destroying large plantations.

In Yunnan, drought is expected to wipe out more than half of the province’s summer grain. In some areas, seven million people are facing grain shortages. The price of a 25kg bag of rice is now 105 yuan to 110 yuan while it only cost us about 75 to 80 yuan before.

Now the authorities are concerned that food and water shortages and higher prices might set off protests by frustrated farmers, who have been hitherto exploited by the state. Rapid price hikes have led some to think that someone is speculating on food.

Yunnan Communist Party Secretary Bai Enpei pledged to protect people from the drought, saying that he would ensure residents “a normal living”. He did not say how he would accomplish this.

Just in case, more than 10,000 armed police have been dispatched to the five regions to “help” with relief efforts.

The Central Meteorological Observatory in Beijing predicted that the drought would worsen, with no substantial rainfall expected for the next 10 days.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Militants Kill ‘US Spies’ In Tribal Region

Miramshah, 22 March (AKI/DAWN) — Pakistani militants gunned down four men who were condemned as ‘US spies’ and threw their bodies in different areas in the North Waziristan tribal region on Sunday.

Sources said the four men were kidnapped from different areas about two weeks ago and tried by ‘Taliban courts’ before being killed.

The slain men were from North Waziristan.

The bullet riddled body of one victim, identified as Zamindar, was found in Spin Wam area while the body of Abdul Hassan was thrown near Machus village.

The bodies of Mohammad Jan and Sajjad Khan were found in Spilga and Haiderkhel villages.

Intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a note was found by one of the bodies.

It warned, in Pashto: “Spies are spies, and they will come to the same fate as these men. … Do not spy for America.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Resource Stranglehold

Key ‘rare earth’ ingredients being consolidated under red banner

Chinese efforts to secure control of the world’s limited resources of strategic materials have made the U.S. defense industry increasingly dependent on the communist nation to keep many U.S. weapons systems operational, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy intend to develop a strategic plan to cope with the national security implications of China’s dominance of the global supply.

For some time, China has undertaken an aggressive effort to acquire access to limited strategic rare earth minerals in Africa and Latin America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Philippines: Gov’t Revives $13 Mln Italian Aircraft Deal

Manila, 22 March (AKI) — The Philippines’ government has announced it will proceed with a 13.1-million dollar contract to buy 18 trainer aircraft from the Italian manufacturer, Alenia Aermacchi.The contract was approved in 2008, but the firm began assembling SF-260 planes only late last year due to undisclosed complications, according to Filipino media reports.

Teresa Parian, chief operating officer of Aerotech Industries Philippines Inc. (AIPI), Aermacchi’s local partner, said the department of national defense had agreed to the project and would obtain a fresh mandate from the government in late 2009.

“We’re fast-tracking the assembly of these aircraft to meet the needs of the military,” Parian said.

“These are training aircraft and we are trying to satisfy the medium-lift requirement, meaning we (should be able to) transport troops when needed especially in times of conflict and disaster,” said defense secretary Norberto Gonzales.

Gonzales revealed the approval of the amended contract during a visit to the Aerotech aircraft parts manufacturing and assembly facility at the Clark Freeport Zone, in Central Luzon region.

“We are trying to do what we need for the next 10 years, we are in a stage where we have to take care of both internal and external defence,” he said.

“We are discussing a few contracts which I hope will be seen in the next 100 days… about some requirements [for] our combat capabilities.”

The SF-260 aircraft are mainly used for training but Manila intends to also use them for the transport of troops.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Qantas Pilot Allowed to Carry on Flying… Despite Having Urges to Crash Planes

A jumbo jet pilot has told how he repeatedly had overwhelming urges to crash the planes he was flying.

Bryan Griffin said that once he even had to ‘immobilise’ his arm to prevent him trying to down a Qantas passenger jet.

His hand had ‘involuntarily moved towards the start levers’ on the journey to Singapore.

The compulsion to cut out the engines was so strong, he had to leave the flight deck and did not return until he had calmed down.

The pilot revealed during a compensation hearing how he was also afflicted by urges to scream and cry, ignored instructions, and repeatedly missed radio and altitude calls.

But despite his health problems and seeing several doctors he was declared fit and kept on flying.

Mr Griffin said he fought the destructive urges to switch off his plane’s engines for three years.

Even as his disorder worsened, he continued to work. He told colleagues and again he saw numerous doctors and psychiatrists before being given extended leave to recuperate.

But, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, he nevertheless returned to flying despite his health problems.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Italy-Mauritania: Giannini, Federpesca Must Up Invesments

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 23 — Transformation of fishing products, rational exploitation of resources, development of traditional fishing, shipbuilding and the breeding of new species are just some of the sectors in which Federpesca, the Italian federation of fishing companies, is trying to develop an Italian presence in Mauritania. It will also aim to strengthen the productive structure through professional training, the transfer of technology and the small economic management projects on the country’s coast. “Present with 7 ships in Mauritanian waters since July 1996, over the last 14 years we have discovered a modern political class and an industrial order ready to welcome Italian investments,” said the general director of Federpesca, Luigi Giannini, this morning, at the Country Presentation organised by Italy’s Foreign Office. With 720 kilometres of coastline and a potential 1.5 million tons of fish per year, fishing is Mauritania’s second largest export. For this reason, the Mauritanian executive has invested in this sector in the last few years, while attempting to protect fishing traditions through the practice of “biological rest”. “We intend to begin new aquaculture projects, especially concerning the breeding of innovative species and the development of biological aquaculture, which can be more easily broadened in virgin waters such as those in Mauritania.” Despite the support for the development of investments in Mauritania from the Italian government and institutions such as SACE, Simest, ICE (the Italian Trade Commission) and Assafrica, not everything is rosy, according to Giannini. “Time is a critical factor, because we have serious competitors, especially in the food sector. We must put together quick and competitive initiatives,” concluded Giannini, the fear being that otherwise Italian fishing could lose ground on foreign competitors.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mauritania: Figures on the Composition of the Economy

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 23 — In recent years Mauritania made major efforts to start up a widespread process of reforms. Here are a few figures concerning the composition of the Country s economy that emerged during the Country Presentation organised today by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PRIVATISATIONS: Following indications by the International Monetary Fund, starting in 200 the Mauritanian governments that came to power in the Country set up a number of major transfers, especially in the following sectors: banking, transport, telecoms, mobile phone services, water and energy. EXCHANGE RATE SYSTEM: In January 2007 even the exchange rate system was liberalised. The Central Bank now holds the regular sale of foreign currency in which the nominal exchange rate for the Ouguiya is allowed to float freely without adjustments. Despite this, the currency s market value has remained quite stable since the market was opened up. REFORMS: Reforms that have been set up in the Country include: revision of the tax system, management of public revenues and expenditure, and the liberalisation of commerce. Mauritania also joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (Eiti), an initiative which aims to promote transparency in the use of funds deriving from oil extraction activities. INDEX OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT: Despite Mauritania s progress, there still remains much to do in the field of fighting poverty and more still in terms of infant mortality rates, literacy and life expectancy. The human development index published by the United Nation Development Programme for 2008/2009 ranks the Country 140 out of 179 surveyed countries. In June of 2002 Mauritania benefited from the cancellation of foreign debt amounting to 622 million dollars in the context of the HIPC Initiative. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mauritania: Economic Sectors and Opportunities

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 23 Close to European markets and with a strong economic projection towards sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritania offers significant investment opportunities in a number of sectors. Below are some of Mauritania s most important: AGRICULTURE: The agricultural potential of the country is expanding, with only 1% of the country s land currently cultivated. Around 80% of the country is desert. With 137,000 hectares of workable land, Mauritania offers interesting investment opportunities in the fruit and vegetable sector, particularly in the production of dates, fruit, vegetables, cereals (flour and rice) and gum Arabic. FISHING: With 720 kilometres of coastline and a potential of about 1.5 million tons of fish per year, the fishing industry is the second most important of Mauritania’s export (40% of total export, between 4 and 6% of GDP). In the last few years, the executive has invested heavily in the development of this sector, seeking to protect fishing heritage through “biological rest”. The aim is also to make fishing one of the leading industries in the development of the manufacturing industry in the next few years, thanks also to the transformation of the haul. Currently only 10% of products are transformed. Business opportunities also exist in the shipbuilding industry and in the building of new ports. ENERGY RESOURCES: OIL To breathe new life into the economy, the Nouakchott government is relying on its oil proceeds. Reserves on sites explored so far (Chinguetti and Banda) are estimated at around 200 million barrels, theoretically exploitable at 50,000 barrels a day. In 2009, oil revenue contributed to a significant reduction in current account deficit, down from 46.9% if GDP in 2005 to 9% of GDP in 2009. NATURAL GAS: Mauritania can produce up to 48 million cubic metres of gas. MINERAL RESOURCES: With a potential of 12 million tons a year of iron, 9 tons of gold, 36,000 tons of copper but also phosphates (around 160 million tons exploitable every year), Mauritania also offers opportunities in the mining sector (the country s leading export). Equally, there are new possibilities for uranium and diamonds. TOURISM: With a variety in landscape ranging from the sea to the desert, from national parks to a rich cultural heritage (the cities of Chinguetti, Guadane, Tichitt and Oualata have been included in the list of Unesco World Heritage Sites), Mauritania invites investment in the sports tourism sector (Saharan regions such as Adrar, Tagant, Assaba, Hodh El Gharbi and Charghi), sports (golf in particular), culture and ecotourism, but also in the development of sporting fishing and hunting. Infrastructure needs to be developed, especially in the coasts. INDUSTRY: The industrial sector (concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou) is also being developed thanks to a revival in private national and foreign investments. EXPORT: Mauritanian exports revolve primarily around two products, minerals and fishing, which represent almost all exports from the country. ITALY-MAURITANIA INTERCHANGE: The presence of Italian goods and exchange relations between the two countries are still in their infancy. Italian commercial balance for the five year period between 2005 and 2009 shows negative tendencies. With the exception of 2006, exchanges between the two countries show a general decrease in volume. In 2009, Italy exported goods to Mauritania for around 18 million euros while imports from the country totaled around 77 million euros, a negative balance of around 59 million euros. In 2007, the last year for which precise figures are provided by Mauritania, Italy was in fifth position in the list of products’ country of origin (behind France, Brazil, Belgium and the US) with a total of 10.3%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Feds: Deport Homeschoolers Who Could Face Persecution

Agency seeks European precedent applied in Tennessee case

Citing a European court ruling, U.S. immigration authorities are arguing in an appeal that a family that fled Germany and gained asylum in Tennessee claiming their government persecuted them for homeschooling should be returned to their home country.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has lodged an appeal of Judge Lawrence Burman’s grant of asylum to the family of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike.


The appeal, submitted to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Fairfax, Va., claimed homeschoolers are too “amorphous” to be a “particular social group,” the HSLDA said.

Further, the agency claims, the U.S. “law has recognized the broad power of the state to compel school attendance and regulate curriculum and teacher certification.”

ICE sought application of the Konrad case in the European Court of Human Rights that “the public education laws of Germany do not violate basic human rights.” The ruling elaborated that parents had no right to direct the education of their own children because that was a responsibility of the state.

In other words, it appears that ICE is arguing that U.S. judges should follow international law — rather than U.S. law,“ the HSLDA said in an alert.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: 42 Illegals Saved After Shipwreck

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 22 — Forty-two illegal immigrants were saved by the Greek coast guard near the island of Farmakonisi in the Dodecanese islands after their boat sank. All of the immigrants — located and rescued after searches last night — were transferred to the immigrant center on the island of Leros. Another 9 illegal immigrants were stopped by police on the island of Farmakonisi during a separate surveillance operation.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: More Than 80 Albanians Stopped in 24 Hrs

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 23 — In recent hours Greek police forces stopped more than 80 Albanians that were illegally attempting to enter the Epirus region. Today the police arrested two Albanians that were attempting to illegally introduce some fellow countrymen into the same region. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Unione Forense: Prevent Slave Trade

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 23 — “We need to prevent the slave trade from reappearing on the shores of the Mediterranean, since it benefits from a net worsening in the humanitarian situation in Africa”. The statement was made by Mario Lana, president of the ‘Unione Forense per la tutela dei diritti dell’uomò (the union of lawyers working to protect human rights), which is setting up in Rome on March 25, together with the United Nation Interregional Crime and Justice Research (Unicri), a workshop named Trafficking — on the side of the victims’. He added that “Every year, approximately 1,200 people in Italy are reported for being in a state of slavery, more than 600 for the exploitation of underage prostitution. Approximately 100 are reports which actually concern the purchase and sale of slaves. In total, 54,000 women contacted the associations that are working on the problem, and in the same period 13,517 programmes to support slave trade victims were implemented, 938 of which benefited minors. The official figures are only a small part of the phenomenon, but point to a dramatic situation which every year affects more than 800,000 women and minors around the world.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Immigrant School Children Fear Wilders Could Deport Them

Teachers in the Netherlands are struggling to explain to their students that anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is allowed to say things that would not be tolerated in school.

A boy with short cropped brown hair raised his hand to ask teacher Mohammed Kaaouass a question about the anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders. “Sir, why is Wilders only taking on Moroccans. Why aren’t French people being kicked out of the country?” The student was a member of a class of 10 to 12-year-old boys at the Islamic primary school Al-Iman discussing the populist politician on a recent Friday morning, little over a week after Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) had become the biggest party in the municipal government in their city, Almere. The headscarf-clad girls in the class had just left for physical education, which is taught separately to boys and girls.

Geert Wilders’ PVV won 20 percent of the votes in this city of 188,000. As in the upcoming national elections, the PVV ran on an anti-immigration platform and has announced it wants to tax or ban headscarfs and deport criminal youths who hold passports from other countries. Wilders is currently being prosecuted in the Netherlands for hate speech and inciting discrimination after he compared the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and made a controversial video that juxtaposed Koranic verses with images of Islamic terrorism.

Kaaouass teaches religion, but after the local election he decided to talk to his students about politics. “That Wilders has become big,” Kaaouass said, “has to do with us.”

Set an example

The teacher went on to tell them about society in 1985, when he moved to the Dutch town of Zeist. “If the milkman came by and people were not home, he would leave the milk at the door. Then we, Moroccan boys, would come to deliver newspapers and we saw that milk by the door,” Kaaouass said as he acted out walking up to a house and seeing something at the front door. “Hey, something to drink,” he said with amazement and picked up the imaginary bottle. The boys laughed.

“So what do you think?” the teacher asked. “Is the news in the papers about loitering youth and robberies true?”

In a high school nearby, teacher Joël de Bruijne talked to his class of 20 about a similar subject. De Bruijne usually teaches PE at Echnaton high school, but also holds sessions twice a week to discuss topics such topics as manners, choices, and respect as well as current issues like Wilders’ anti-Islam video Fitna, a possible headscarf ban and the local elections. During Monday’s class, he explained how the Labour party had replaced its leader Wouter Bos by Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen and that Wilders has accused Cohen of being too soft on immigrants. “He calls him a ‘multi-cultural bleeding heart’ because he drinks tea with people of all cultures,” De Bruijne said.

The rise of Wilders is an issue for children of all creeds at different schools in Almere. Their teachers are busy clarifying and comforting. But how can they explain that Wilders is allowed to say things that would not be tolerated in school?

De Bruijne recalled his own classes at the teachers’ training college to explain how hard it is for teachers to deal with the turbulent political situation in the Netherlands. “We learnt that we could disapprove of behaviour, but never of an individual,” he said. While De Bruijne believes politicians especially should set an example. “Wilders stigmatises whole groups of the population”.

Freedom of speech

On the day of the elections he bumped into two boys in the corridor. They had been expelled from their class after they had said “Moroccan scum” should leave the country. They felt they had every right to say this, as Wilders does the same, De Bruijne said.

He was struck by the incident, because the boys are right: they should be allowed to quote a politician. But Wilders’ remarks go against school rules. Having respect for one another is something the school, with children from all parts of the world, holds high. Moroccan scum, and other derogatory terms used by Wilders, are not in line with that policy, according to De Bruijne. “Fortunately, I can tell them that Wilders has yet to account for his remarks, because the case against him is in court.”

Children at the Al-Imam school were playing a game of tag with the boys chasing the girls during recess, supervised by Harry van der Bijl. In his ten years at the Islamic school he had seen the response to 9/11, the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical and, recently, the rise of the PVV. “As a teacher, I try not to take sides,” he said.

He has attempted to explain to his students that it is a good thing that Wilders can say what he does, as this proves the existence of freedom of speech. And why it is a good thing he was able to establish a political party that people can vote for. All this means there is a democracy in the Netherlands, he has told them. “But the way he attacks Muslims is something I can’t defend to the class,” Van der Bijl said. Fellow teacher Fatiha Bousandrous added she can’t explain to her class why their mothers may be forbidden to wear a veil. “I am their teacher, but I do not understand it either,” she said. Bousandrous wears a headscarf herself.

Do the math

Her students were upset the day after the election, she said. She gave them a day to calm down and then took the time to tell them they need not be afraid: we live in a democratic country. If Wilders calls for something to happen, that won’t make it a reality, she told her class. A headscarf ban can only happen if other parties want it as well. The PVV may be the biggest party in Almere, but not a single other party in the local council has been willing to support its proposed headscarf ban.

Fatma Batuk, who was dropping her 10-year-old son off at the school, said she had been telling him similar things. Recently her son weighed the pros and cons of emigrating to either Turkey or Belgium, as he was sure his family would be forced to leave, she said.

Some of the students at Echnaton were also convinced the dark-skinned students would disappear, teacher De Bruijne said.

He started his first tutoring class after the election with a bit of math. The election in Almere had a turnout of 60 percent and 20 percent of those people voted for the PVV. How big a part of the city is that, he asked. Only 12 percent. Did his students consider that a lot, he asked them.

He then showed them videos of people explaining why they voted for the PVV. They said it was because of immigrants, but also said toughness on crime, a lack of faith in established parties and bankers’ bonuses as reasons to support Wilders. “I try to put the outcome in perspective,” De Bruijne said.

In Mohammed Kaaouass’ class at Al-Imam primary school, a boy with braces raised his hand to answer the question whether there was any truth to the negative news about Moroccan boys. “Sir, I kind of disagree with you. There are Moroccans who do well, aren’t there?”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

The Bishops, Not Stupak, Are the Problem

Last November we noted that, through the Stupak amendment, the Catholic Bishops guaranteed passage of Obamacare through the House of Representatives. The Bishops put on a big show this time around, saying that they were opposed to the House passing the Senate health care bill without similar Stupak language. In the end, Stupak, a “pro-life Catholic Democrat,” made a deal, once again guaranteeing passage of the bill in the House. It’s difficult to believe the Bishops were not in on it.

This is because, as we also revealed in late January, a personal representative of the Bishops explained during a conference call in favor of health care legislation and “comprehensive immigration reform” that it was all about money. Kevin Appleby, director of the Bishops’ Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs, said the Bishops wanted a national health care plan funded by taxpayers to pick up the costs associated with covering the illegal aliens coming to the Catholic hospitals.

It’s impossible to believe, in the final analysis, that Stupak betrayed the Bishops. Catholic Church lobbyists were working hand-in-glove with Stupak from the start.

Even as they were issuing press releases insisting that the bill had to be more pro-life, the Bishops were reiterating that they have been for national health legislation all along and that they wanted to see it changed to cover more immigrants. “Universal coverage should be truly universal,” they said. In other words, they wanted it to be more expansive and expensive. They don’t think Obama and the Democrats went far enough!


The Catholic Church is quickly moving ahead to pass a bill to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. It is significant that on Sunday, as national health care legislation was passing the House, the Catholic Bishops were promoting a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to force congressional passage of “comprehensive immigration reform.” The rally was preceded by a Mass in support of immigrants with celebrants Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Wester at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

The Center for Community Change (CCC), supported by hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Open Society Institute of George Soros, organized the demonstration, operating through the front group called “Reform Immigration for America.” The CCC has also been supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an arm of the Catholic Bishops. John Carr, the Bishops’ director for justice, peace and human development, once sat on the board of the CCC.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


David Littman Addresses the UN Human Rights Council

David Littman, human rights activist, friend of Israel and of the Tundra Tabloids, sends the TT the following speech he delivered yesterday at the UN Human Rights Council, concerning the Hamas’ implicit calls for the destruction of Jews and the state of Israel, and the Goldstone Report’s refusal to address it.

Mr.David Littman stands head and shoulders above many of the people who use the UN for their own deceitful purposes, being a true humanitarian in the traditional sense of the word. The UN has bastardized the meaning of human rights and it’s only people like David who hold them to acount for their miserable actions.

Hats off to Mr.David Littman, may he never tire in his endeavor to hold the feet of the international community to the fire, by keeping them aware of their gross double standards towards Israel, and how that gross double standard effects the lives of those who live in states who really do need the help of the international community.

[Return to headlines]